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Imperishable Joy

What a trip it has been. It feels like only yesterday we got on a plane to head towards Thailand. But now as I open my eyes once again, I find myself on the familiar beaches of South Carolina. Every morning, I wake up, ready to do my daily routine but eventually realize that we are no longer in busy streets of Bangkok. Why is there this sudden pain in my heart, the pain of feeling home sick. A pain I didn’t even feel when I was in Thailand. I think it’s my heart telling me that it misses the moments spent with the students and how many miles apart we are.

What has the Lord done to me? Never would I have imagined myself in this situation. It only took the Lord one month, just one month, to open my heart and fill it with a joy for the nations. My heart cries out to experience this joy once more, while my tears know it’ll be awhile.

Time here in South Carolina has been nothing short of amazing. We’ve gotten the chance to be reunited with old friends and make new ones. I’ve been given lots of opportunities to share about my experience and what the Lord is doing in Thailand. By doing so it has also helped me understand and reflect on my trip. However, I struggle in conversing with others about the joy that I experienced. I feel as though I am incapable of finding the right words to describe how amazing and sweet the Lord was throughout the trip. It’s so hard to convey this joy when I don’t fully understand it myself. The thing I’ve come to understand is that the only one possible of changing my heart is God. I used to ask myself “Why should I go?” but by the end of the summer, I can gladly profess that it has changed to “Why should I stay?”. Before going, I thought about all the opportunities I would miss out on by going on this missions trip, like internships and times spent with friends and family. How silly I was because I have lost nothing, but came out so much better because I now have a new family and a new joy.  

At times, I feel as though what I have to share is meaningless to some; being obligated to listen. These are just doubts and lies that run through my head after sharing. But I remember what it was like being in their shoes last year when I was on the listening end. It’s hard to understand what the person went through when you haven't experienced it for yourself. 

At the end of the day, it isn’t my call to dwell on this but to be faithful in sharing the great work that God has done. I have to remember that I am not the one that's going to open their hearts to missions but that only God can change their hearts like he changed mine. God has indeed made our efforts fruitful. Many students have open their hearts and minds towards missions. I pray that they would have the chance to experience the joy that I have experienced. A joy that only comes from sharing the good news with the people who need it the most.

- Eh Doh Drawny

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The Family of Christ

Our time in Bangkok has come to an end. We finished teaching our classes last week and another team from America arrived to help the school teach the next session of classes that started earlier this week. We had one final event to spend time with students and before we left. Our Fourth of July celebration was our last farewell to the friends we made at the school.

Throughout our time in Bangkok, we learned many things about ourselves. Despite many barriers and cultural differences, it was remarkable how quickly we adapted. Within a week and a half, we established a routine of teaching classes, spending weekends on day trips and outings, and eating with students almost every night. It is incredible how quickly we formed new routines to get comfortable in a foreign culture. Looking back, the initial hardships of sleeping on the floor, sporadic food illness, and oppressive heat and humidity are very distant. It is amazing how faithful God was in giving us strength and grace to persevere through fatigue, sickness, and cultural barriers. 

The hardest thing of all was leaving our new friends. Family and friends are very important in Thai culture. For Thai Christians, friendships with other believers are even more important because the national and family identity of Thai people is Buddhist. Identifying as a Christian isolates the Thai person from their country, often separating them from their own family. So for Christians in Thailand and places like it, the church is their family. Witnessing this dramatically impacted my understanding of the church. Even though I am a foreigner and did not know these people before this trip, I was welcomed into the family.

Thinking about this, the words of 1 Peter 2:4-5 come to mind:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This scripture has helped me to understand the beauty of the church. The church is not a physical building of brick and mortar, but the living stones of believers. The collective church is constructed to serve and worship Christ, a mission that is fulfilled not only during Sunday morning services, but in our daily lives. We do this in community, living life with a purpose of glorifying God and pointing others to Him. In Thailand, I saw this play out in sharing my testimony, having encouraging (and sometimes hard) conversations, sharing meals, going to markets, and playing games together. Many students at the school noticed that this uplifting community of Christians is dramatically different from their social circles. One of my students told me that the people at the school are his real friends. He would spend spent as much time as he could around us. This is the largest difference that I have noticed about ministry in Thailand; a strong community of Christians welcomes unbelievers into that community. Immersion in the community gives opportunity for unbelievers to ask questions and learn about Christ as Christians live out their faith. 

The reality is I love Thailand. More than anything else, I cherish the relationships that I have with the people there. I have seen the love of Christ in other Christians as they sacrificed their own time and resources to meet our needs. This is just a glimpse of the beautiful family that we will have in heaven. For those who do not follow Christ, they cannot receive salvation or be a member of this family. We are to cherish the community that we have in Christ, but our job is not done yet. We are to teach others about the work of Christ and pray that God work in their hearts so that they can also be part of God’s family with us.

I am so honored to have been able to see this in a cross cultural setting, and I cannot wait to see how God continues to bring others into the family of Christ.

- Noah Schuetz

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Bittersweet Lasts

Greetings one and all! One thing I can definitely say: this past week has been a week. So much happened that God has orchestrated, it’s hard to not burst into spontaneous song.

This past week was our last week teaching English classes at Santisuk. As such, it has left a bitter-sweet aftertaste in my soul. Bitter because we as a team, have invested parts of our hearts here and are now preparing to leave. There were a lot of “lasts” this week, and a lot of goodbyes. For my part, I also feel like I have finally gotten my feet under me in terms of teaching, building relationships, understanding how to get around Bangkok without a guide, and a host of other things. Particularly, I feel like I have just started to finally get comfortable around the students and to get to know them on a personal level. And just as that has happened (at least to some extent) we are leaving. So in that regard, it’s been a challenging week.

On the other hand, it was also an incredibly sweet week. The depth of grief experienced when leaving a person or place indicates their value to us and therefore the worth of the relationships built. Thus, in our preparation for leaving I feel like we are realizing just how much this time has meant to us. There were also a lot of really cool things that God did last week. I think Thursday night in particular was a highlight of just about everyone on the team. That evening, we had an end of session party. There were songs, a game, and a short testimony from Eh Doh. I think God really used him and his story to impact all the students, staff, and teachers there. 

Eh Doh told about the way Jesus saved him and brought him to life – an incredible story in itself. He went on, though, to tell about how he feels God is calling him to possibly come back to Thailand in the future. By the end, he was weeping, as was I and quite a number of others. As Ben put it, “I feel like often people get emotional when telling their testimonies because of all that God has brought them through – which is incredible. However, Eh Doh’s story was particularly striking because he was visibly gripped by his love for Jesus and what He is calling Eh Doh to in the future.” To see the way God worked in that alone was incredible. God went even further, though, to use Eh Doh’s story to really touch the students here. Joyce, one of the long-term teachers at Santisuk, said that often testimonies are told and students don’t really engage fully. Yet on Thursday, while talking with the students after the “official program,” it was clear they were moved too. Praise God! 

God has also been working in other ways in the lives of the students we’ve been getting to know. There are many stories I could tell, but I will limit myself for the sake of brevity. Art and Ploy are two students in particular who have really changed this month. Art has been willing to study the Bible with Mitch, and Ploy has really come out of her shell and engaged with the community at Santisuk in meaningful and significant ways. From what Joyce says of Ploy in particular, “God is working mighty miracles in Ploy’s life.” Praise Him for that great grace!

Another story is one from my own teaching this last week. Part of the curriculum at Santisuk is “Reading Comprehension” based on reading Bible stories. On Thursday, the “story” was John 3:16-17. In my morning class, we read the story and went over the comprehension questions. I then asked, “Any other questions?” Silence. And we moved on, no problem. In the evening, however, when I asked for further questions there was a moment of silence, but then the students started asking questions – and I mean questions, indicating that they were not just thinking about the English syntax, but about spiritual reality; Heaven and Hell and righteousness and wickedness. I even had the chance to share what sin is that it requires God to save us. Praise the Lord! What a grace, that he would work in their hearts in that way! I pray and trust that he will continue to work as he wills, to the praise of his glorious grace. 

There is so much more I could share, but I hope this gives you a snapshot into the work of the Lord this past week. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support – God is answering!

- Karl Geary

End of Session Party

End of Session Party

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The Harvest is Plentiful

This past weekend, part of our team had the opportunity to visit a village in Northern Thailand. The village, Fak Tha, is about 350 miles north of Bangkok in the providence of Uttaradit. Fak Tha is the hometown of our host in Bangkok, P’Noi (P is added before a name to show honor to those older or in a higher position than you), and his nephew, Book, one of the students at Santisuk this session. We were able to go with Book as he traveled home to prepare for university in Uttaradit beginning in July. It was a blessing to go up country as it allowed us to continue relationships with P’Noi’s family that have been formed by our Global Partners in Thailand and a team of short term missionaries from Bethlehem Baptist last year.

Ben, Mitch, Noah, and I traveled by train and bus with Karen, our Global Partner, and Book. Being the first train ride for the guys it was an exciting cultural experience to take a six hour ride through the Thai countryside. Staring out at countless rice paddies, fields of various crops, small villages, and mountains passed the time quickly. The following three hour bus ride to the village center made for a tiring day of travel.

We were met with generous hospitality by Book and P’Noi’s family when we arrived. We slept at the house P’Noi built for his parents and simply walked across the road to Book’s family’s house for delicious meals. Book’s family are farmers which meant all of our food was fresh and the majority of it was from their fields. We enjoyed trying new dishes specific to Uttaradit with the staple of sticky rice at every meal. Having family-style, home-cooked meals was a refreshing change compared to eating at street vendors or restaurants for almost every meal in Bangkok.

Our time was spent bonding with Book and his family, praying for them and their village, and exploring a bit of Fak Tha. We had the pleasure of driving mopeds around the quiet roads of the country to see the water reservoir, the family’s asparagus and rice fields, and schools in the area. We even traveled to a local “farmers” market with fresh meats, produce, and other goods for sale. We definitely stood out, but it was interesting to see how rural Thailand differs from the city.

The main purpose for us going on the trip was missions. Although P’Noi is a believer, the rest of his extended family, including Book, are not. We prayed for opportunities to share the gospel with Book’s family and people in the village. Although we did not have an opportunity to share the gospel explicitly though words, we were able to show aspects of Christianity through our actions and Karen had spiritual conversations with Book on the train. It was incredible to hear stories of how changes had happened in Book’s father’s life since the Bethlehem team was there are shared the gospel with him. We believe and are continuing to pray that the Holy Spirit would be at work in his life and all of Fak Tha. Being that we were surrounded by unbelievers and farming communities, Jesus’ words in Matthew 9 were a consistent thought and prayer for our team.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:36-38

A specific prayer for laborers came from meeting a believer who lives in a nearby village. We were able to speak and pray with him and his family at the market. He is eagerly praying for a church to be planted in Fak Tha that he and his family can attend so that he could grow in his faith and his children would come to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We have joined in the prayer that our Global Partners have been praying; that a long term missionary would be called to Fak Tha and help to establish a multi-ethnic church there. There are connections with P’Noi’s family to host the missionary(ies) and help them learn the language and culture.

On the ride back to Bangkok, our team was praying about being called to long-term overseas missions. This experience in Fak Tha showed us it is more feasible that we may have previously thought. Pray that God would continue to work in our hearts to show his glory to us and through us. Pray that we would be willing to go wherever we may be called for however long is necessary. Pray that a missionary would go and a church would be planted in Fak Tha, ask boldly that God would place one of our team members there.

- Harmon Squires, 2019 CCP Director

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Babel

It has been two weeks since our team landed in Bangkok, Thailand. Yes, Bangkok is hot, humid and has an endless flow of chaotic traffic. By God’s grace our team is learning the ropes of this foreign city, and our chances at survival are looking pretty good! We have conquered jet lag, learned to navigate our way back and forth from the English school, and even began to find some of our favorite street vendors. It is evident that the Lord is making our path level and protecting us at every dangerous street corner.

It’s still early into our trip, but already we have seen so many things to praise God. Specifically, the students and staff at Santisuk English School. Our mission here is primarily to plant seeds in the hearts of our students. We hope to achieve this by teaching them stories about Jesus in the English language during class and spending time with them outside of class time. While we were preparing for this trip we thought that most of our students would be university students, but we have quickly found that many of our students are working full-time and a few are even in high school. Despite this unforeseen twist, our whole team has been able to create great relationships with our students so far.

Together, our team is teaching a combined 49 students in seven different English classes. Within the classroom, our method of reaching students with the good news is one that requires patience and trust. Each level of English consists of 15 class periods over the span of four weeks. During most class periods, students will read a Bible story of Jesus performing a miracle or teaching and then they will answer questions about what they read. As a class we then discuss the questions which gives students an opportunity to organize their thoughts into English as they ponder the life and teachings of Jesus. During their fourth English course (Level Four), the students are required to have a one hour interview to test their English conversation skills. During the final part of the interview, one of the local believers who is fluent in Thai will share the gospel with them in Thai. By their Level Four class, most students have enough of an understanding to obtain a grasp of what the gospel means. If they have questions, they can always ask question in Thai for a better understanding. The ministry is well designed and it has been a privilege to teach English and engage with our students, but our team in learning about all the patience and trust that it takes to evangelize across a language barrier in a foreign nation.

What has been truly powerful to see is how people from different cultures with different languages can interact and bond on such a deep level. Our students have taken us out for meals and sightseeing on many occasions, and each experience has been a joy. It’s clear that God is working in our relationships with our students, the local believers, and in the hearts of this team.

Though the Lord has given us people of peace, willing to treat us like family without knowing us, the communication barrier has been a profound obstacle. It’s an obstacle that is rooted in our sin and a consequence that manifested soon after the creation of the world. The words of Genesis 11 give insight into why:

They they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the earth…Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

Genesis 11:4, 7-8

The weight of our pride is a harsh reality. “But God, being rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) interrupts and redeems the consequences of our pride through Jesus Christ. He uses this dispersion of people, this language barrier, not only to humble us but also to glorify Himself. This separation of people by language has given us the opportunity to come to Thailand to share Jesus. We can use our ability to speak English to share the gospel. What separated us in Genesis can be used to glorify His name and not ours. As Revelation 7:9 says:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.

Yes, God redeems our pride in Genesis 11 by using each culture and people and language to give himself Glory! And what a miracle it is to see two cultures speak in two different languages to worship the same God. Here in Thailand, we have experienced a small glimpse of what is to come.

Please pray more people of Thailand to join the celebration of Jesus. Pray for them to enter the Kingdom of God, so as a great multitude, we may enjoy him forever, together.

- Ben Hershey

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Sawasdee Thailand

Sawasdee! (Hello) We have been in Bangkok for over a week now and it has been a whirlwind of learning, adjustment, and meeting new people. The team and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve with Santisuk English School and Water of Life Church for the next month.

The transition here has been more difficult than I imagined. Most of us on the team had never traveled across the world before, and jet lag became a very real term to all of us. Luckily, waking up far before our alarms allowed our team to spend time with the Lord every morning and some of us took the opportunity to exercise with the Thai believers we are staying with. Long days of taking in new sights, sounds, and smells along with heat that has not gone below 80 degrees Fahrenheit helped us to fall asleep quickly and rest well at night. This helped us to get over jet lag quickly.

Our first few days consisted of trainings at Santisuk, the English School we will be teaching at over the next four weeks. We learned about Thai culture, how to teach our English classes, the ministry our Global Partners run, and how we can best serve them and the Thai students we will be teaching. Orientation also included tours of the neighborhood we are living in and the area around our school. Acclimating to an unfamiliar city, new methods of transportation, and street signs in a different language has not been easy. We got lost once so far, but that is just the way we like it! We have found our footing now and are excited to become more familiar with Bangkok as we explore it with our students.

We have enjoyed meeting and growing in relationship with our Global Partners and the Thai believers connected to Water of Life Church. It is a small church that meets in the same building where we are teaching. The service is in Thai, but parts are translated into English so we are able to understand and follow along. Worshiping with brothers and sisters in Christ in a different language shows me a greater picture of how big and great our God is. It has truly been a blessing to interact with the believers here, and even though we desired to encourage them, they have been constant encouragement to our team.

Oh, and did I mention the food? Aroi! (Delicious) This has been another adjustment point, but one myself, and the team are really appreciating. Streets full of stalls with various foods have introduced us to another important part of Thai culture. From spicy rice dishes to fresh, sweet mangoes we have loved experiencing new flavors and getting to know Thai people over a shared meal. And yes, I did try the fried crickets.

Khop khun (Thank you) for your prayers and support. God has been so faithful throughout this experience so far and I believe he will continue his faithfulness.

- Mitchel Magee

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Far More Abundantly

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

There is only one day until we board our flight for Bangkok, Thailand. As I reflect on what God has done in the past six months as we have been preparing for our 2019 Cross Cultural Project, I am completely amazed by how truly good he is. Preparing a team of incredible guys that love the Lord, hospitable and helpful Global Partners overseas, and 100% of our financial support only scratch the surface of his goodness.

Six months ago we were praying for all of these things. Not only have they come to fruition, but God has exceeded our expectations. I eagerly await to see how God continues to do far more than all that we ask or think while we are in Thailand. I ask that you would join us in praying for God to be glorified through our lives as we see and share his presence and power.

PRAYER POINTS:

  • Health and Safety

    • Pray for uneventful travel to Bangkok, protection in the city, and safe travels home. 

    • Ask God that our team would not get sick. Pray for quick adjustment to new foods and hot weather. 

  • Reliance on God

    • Pray that we would see our insignificance and rely on God in everything.

    • Ask that our inabilities plus God's abilities would lead to limitless possibilities. 

  • Humility

    • Ask that we would be learners, coming to aid the Global Partners in what God is already doing and not push our desires on them.

  • Understanding of the Gospel

    • Pray that Thai students we interact with would hear and accept the Gospel of Jesus and see Him as ultimate, worthy, and worth it.

    • Pray that our team would see more of our sinfulness, more of God's holiness, and understand more greatly how the cross bridges the gap between the two.

  • Encouragement to Local Believers

    • Pray that our team would be a breath of fresh air to the local Thai believers and Global Partners. As they do not have much exposure to Christians, ask God to allow us to be uplifting to them. 

  • Relationships

    • Ask that relationships would happen quickly and depth could be had between our team, Thai students, and local believers. 

    • Pray for depth of love and care between our team members as we rely on one another and point one another towards God.

  • Anxieties 

    • Pray that the peace of God would surpass all understanding as we travel, teach, and connect with Thai students. 

    • Pray for us to cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us.

  • Thailand

    • Pray for a country surrounded by spiritual darkness. Pray that people would accept the Gospel of Christ.

    • Ask God to send out laborers to the harvest field. Prepare the hearts of our team for the potential of future, long-term missions.

  • Praise God for Full Support!

    • Join us in thanking God for His provision as our total support goal was raised.

We as a team look forward to keeping you updated on what God is doing in and through us during our time in Thailand. Specifically, we are excited to share how he does far more abundantly than any request here.

- Harmon Squires, 2019 CCP Director

2019 CCP Team: Mitch Magee, Karl Geary, Eh Doh Drawny, Ben Hershey, Harmon Squires, Noah Schuetz

2019 CCP Team: Mitch Magee, Karl Geary, Eh Doh Drawny, Ben Hershey, Harmon Squires, Noah Schuetz

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We've A Story To Tell The Nations

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

Our final week at ITESO has come to an end. At the beginning of the summer Mike Caponigro told us to labor for the Gospel and live a summer without regrets. By God’s grace, everyone would agree that we have lived this summer with no regrets. We have labored hard for the sake of the Gospel and have seen God work in so many ways.

Our final week on campus was completely focused on studying the Bible with students and going through Gospel books. At first, one of the girls I had been meeting with was closed off to the idea of Christianity. She explained that thinking of death is too sad and would prefer to live for the moment. As Sarah and I continued to study the Bible with her and walk through the Gospel, her eyes became open to God’s purpose for her life and would like to meet with Brittany, one of the leaders involved with Cristo Redentor Church.  Multiple other students have been introduced to Kike and Brittany Astorga, and will be starting a Bible study with them in the fall; some are even considering coming to New Years Conference!

Laura and I met with the professor again and introduced her to Gospel books to walk through the main points of Christianity. Laura shared the bridge diagram with her and the professor explained that she has never heard the Gospel so clearly. She thanked us for the books and explained that she has felt Jesus knocking on the door to her heart and she wants to know Him more. The conversation was such a humbling experience as we saw God work in the heart of the professor and pursue her.

Everyone single one of the students that we have been meeting with has become more and more open to the Gospel. Our relationships with them have become like family. Throughout the summer these students have come to our home, watched movies, eaten dinner, and studied the Bible with us. The team is experiencing bittersweet emotions as we leave Mexico. Although we miss our friends and family, it is hard to leave a place that has become so dear to us. The team would appreciate prayers for the students as they begin studying the Bible with Kike and Brittany. We are hoping for five ITESO students to attend New Years Conference in 2017.

Thank you all who have prayerfully and financially supported the CCP team this summer. God has given us an incredible summer with no regrets.

To Him be the honor and the glory!

Hannah Swanson 

Back row (left to right): Troy Watson, Jacob Pitman, Kyle Smeltzer, Austin Cohn, Ben Jones, Mike Caponigro  Front row (left to right): Sarah Bujold, Hannah Swanson, Gracie Cobb, Amber McGhee, Natasha Edge, Laura Caponigro

Back row (left to right): Troy Watson, Jacob Pitman, Kyle Smeltzer, Austin Cohn, Ben Jones, Mike Caponigro

Front row (left to right): Sarah Bujold, Hannah Swanson, Gracie Cobb, Amber McGhee, Natasha Edge, Laura Caponigro

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It’s the Final Countdown

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 Ephesians 5:1-2

Two weeks and three days left of CCP in Mexico. The past two weeks have been focused on having spiritual conversations with ITESO students. My ministry partner, Sarah Bujold, and I were able to study the Bible with two girls this past week. Everything that the girls said was extremely encouraging! They seemed to have a good understanding of the Gospel and want to know more about our faith. Sarah and I have been praying that they will accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior by the end of the summer.

Having spiritual conversations with the students has been surprisingly easy. Because the Mexican culture is so friendly and open, they have been so receptive of our beliefs. Since ITESO is a Catholic school, we’ve been able to use the topic of Catholicism as an opening to spiritual conversation. The Catholic Church in Mexico is seen as corrupt and evil to multiple students and professors that we’ve spoken with. One professor that Laura Caponigro and I talked with mentioned that her cousin was molested by a Catholic priest. Since then she has had many negative experiences with the church. We were able to invite her to our Protestant Church and plan to meet with her again for coffee. Laura and I prayed for our professor and hope that we can see her at our church on Sunday.

Sharing the Gospel with lost students has been an eye-opening experience for me. I have never intentionally spent time with people for the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel with them. Cross-cultural, relational missions is what I wish to pursue after college and I am truly getting a taste of that here. Though I am tired and sometimes tempted by the appeal of Mexican culture, Christ is becoming more and more constant in my life. I must be dependent and filled by the power of Christ in order for this mission to be successful. We praise God for the ways He has used us in spite of our tiredness and weaknesses.

To Him be the honor and the glory!

Hannah Swanson 

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Clear Eyes Full Hearts Can’t Lose

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:11-12

As we press towards our goal in Christ the team has become unified and seen God work. We are three weeks into the summer and God has done so much! Every morning we pray together as we drive onto campus. It has been so sweet and humbling to pray for non-believing students at the university then start to have spiritual conversations with them.

Mike Caponigro, our team leader from Eastern Illinois University, decided to spend some time reading the Bible at ITESO. He was tired and needed to be filled by the Word. As he sat and planned to spend some alone time with Jesus, a student came up to him and started asking him questions about the Bible. Mike was able to do his devotions with a random, non-Christian student and share the Gospel with them. Mike explained that throughout his entire career with CO, this had never happened to him. The team prayed for the student and surrendered the whole experience to the Lord. Since then the student has been attending our Friday evening parties and getting to know other guys on the team.

The more we interact with the ITESO students the more we see that the harvest is plentiful for ministry in Mexico. Because the Mexican culture is so open and friendly, it has been easier than ever to get to know people. God has truly started to give us a love and a passion for these people. There are 5 weeks left of the summer for God to use us as He chooses in Mexico. To Him be all the honor, glory, and credit!

Hannah Swanson

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One Goal

The team Minnesota CO Team and Illinois Team has conjoined and is slowly getting used to new surroundings. Last Friday we had orientation for Spanish classes at ITESO. Classes started Monday (May 29) and I feel a little overwhelmed. Everything is in Spanish and I can’t help but feel discouraged with the amount of learning I will have to do in order to communicate with students this summer. It has been a new level of surrender for me, being surrounded by a different culture. I think God needed to take me away from everything I’m used to (friends, family, culture, daily comforts) in order to show me that my dependence, confidence, passion, and life must be completely reliant on Him. Honestly, I don’t think I understand what it means to live a life that is “dying to myself.” Jesus gives us an example of this in His life and ministry. I had decided it was an unachievable, unrealistic goal. That is simply not true! We have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us and we have the capability to love others the way Jesus loves us. I am excited to see what that will look like as the summer goes on. I want to live this summer by dying to myself in a way I’ve never done before. The team is going through the book of Ephesians, which we’re all excited about. The more I read through it the more I understand what God means when He tells us to live and walk in His wisdom. I pray that the more we seek Him and His wisdom, the concept of dying to our flesh will be more of an achievable goal.

~ Hannah Swanson

 

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We Look Back To Look Forward

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We Look Back To Look Forward

We look back in awe over God's faithfulness and commitment to seeing His gospel grow among students in Sheffield...

“Being a part of CCP has been a very growing and eye opening experience that has reframed the way I think about the world and how I can live out my life on mission for God. This has been a blessing and privilege.” – Sarah Trapp

 

Looking through the carousel of visual memories above, it is really amazing to reflect on all that we have been able to do, and all of the people in Sheffield that our team has been able to point to the Gospel. For that, we thank God and you who have helped to make this possible through your prayer and support. To recap on this summer, myself and six other U.S. students formed a Cross Cultural Project (CCP). We were later joined by seven British students to launch a Summer Leadership Project (SLP) in Sheffield, U.K. Over the last two months we have learned how to study the Bible, been trained in evangelism, shared our faith collectively with hundreds of students, processed applying the gospel to so many areas of life, and experienced deep fellowship - all within our local church in Sheffield. 

Michaiah Melody provides some introspective thoughts pertaining to this summer project: “Once, our trip leader Devin {fondly known by our team as ‘dad’} was leading one of our training sessions and he asked us the questions: “How has God saved you in the past?” and “How is God saving you now?” When I first started to think about these questions I honestly did not know how to start answering them. As I look back over the past years of my life, I can see how different I am, but in all reality I don’t feel all that different. It is a strange and almost out-of-body experience to look back at your previous self, but when I come to think of it, it is a constant practice. We have been told by many to look to the future. However, everyday I realize more and more that I cannot look forward without looking back. In days past I would never have imagined that I would be sitting here in England. If God had not shown up, I would not be in our little Sheffield apartment smiling because I am remembering all the laughs and cream teas we have already shared in such a short time. God has truly transformed me. Thinking through the answers to these questions has helped me to communicate the Gospel better to the university students that we meet. I am able to see how it impacts my life in a personal way.”

Looking forward to the Prayer Focus for STP ’16 Missions Week:

  • Pray for the lost and unbelieving people the CCP team have engaged with this summer.
    • Specifically university students that attend The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.
  • Pray that the English people group would know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior, and, in turn, they would share the gospel message in their thoughts, words and deeds with others.
  • Pray that the international students we shared the gospel with: 
    • Would get connected with a gospel-centered Church in Sheffield.
    • Would get connected with the long term CO team planted in Sheffield.
    • Travel back to their native country and share the gospel there.
  • Pray God would start planting the seeds for next year’s CCP team and the years to come.
    • Many of the students on STP '16 ARE members of future CCP teams.
  • Finally, pray for the needs of the world to hear Jesus!

We want to take the opportunity as a team to recognize your work as supporters. Through prayer and financial support people from all over the world have been able to hear about the glorious grace of the Father through Jesus Christ. Know that your support has the opportunity to change an eternity for someone, and that is not a small thing. Know that not only are we grateful, but that God sees your faithfulness. Please continue to pray for our team during these post-short term mission days. Pray we would soak in the rest of this project and actually process all we have learned. Pray this summer would be a BIG step in shaping us to become life-long laborers for Christ!

- Michael Jolivette

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Train For The World

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Train For The World

Our final train for Manchester chugs out of the station at 7 a.m. on July 17.  Sunday is our last day being on the SLP and living in Sheffield. Steve Discher gave me an “emotions wheel” during a Discipleship Group the other night. The wheel looks quite silly, but is a useful resource. It is a pie chart that lists over fifty words that can describe how I am feeling. As I think about leaving the U.K. and traveling back to the states, I feel sad, astonished, excited and fulfilled for various reasons. I feel my teammates could definitely add to this list! (I also felt "helped" after I received this pie-wheel. Thanks Dish!) Please pray for our team’s return training, processing culture shock, and for a safe journey back home. (Return training is one of the trainings Campus Outreach does for summer project students.) C.O.M. summer projects are nuanced in ways that stimulate vision for the college campus and global outreach. The projects are also designed to train students for their city, workplace, and current context they find themselves in. Vision casting and training are impossible without God’s providence in raising up godly men and women who labor within this particular university ministry. With that said, our CCP team is grateful to have been a part of “year zero” of CO Sheffield, which has rebranded itself into “TCH Student Ministry Team.”

I feel thankful for student workers like Andrew and Sara, Steve and Lindsay, Tim and Cassie and others who plan and lead us through Christ-centered talks and breakout sessions on different topics. From the trainings, our team is learning how to navigate through the gospel story of the Bible, and apply it to life situations using our gospel-renewed lenses. Alli Wood’s favorite training on the STP and SLP has always been "Life Training" because it has helped her read the scriptures and uncover biblical ethics on topics like career and calling. “The Bible gives humanity hope for work. People acknowledge both how deeply frustrating and difficult work can be and how encouraging the spiritual hope of the Gospel must be if they are going to face the challenge of pursuing careers in this world.” The talks are just the tip of the iceberg, however, as our SLP has witnessed the Knights, Dischers and Devanes pour themselves out for us on a deep, relational level. (I also want to include the relational ministry of Nat, Josh and Ben as well!) Jake Wood shared with me how the student workers bring a wealth of wisdom to the table. “I think this SLP is led by some seasoned university workers. The elders at The Crowded House respect the student team, are happy to have them, and the student team sets a good example for how to culturally interact.” I think the student workers genuinely want to know how we are really doing physically, emotionally and spiritually during our highs and lows of the SLP. My teammates and I agree the student workers help strengthen our intimacy with God by spending time in the word and praying with each of us. The SLP has been a place to share the Gospel with the lost and be reminded again and again of what the Gospel is to those found in Christ. Therefore, I have felt sharpened and humbled by the SLP leaders who see sin in my life and are not complacent in letting it fester in the dark. I feel incredibly cared for having advocates like Tim and Andrew in my life. These student workers call me out by helping me drag sin into the light, and they help me fight it by God’s grace.

"Jesus was not kidding when he said, "Follow me." He was not bluffing when he said, "I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). God is serious about sending and firm about our fishing. His will is not a total mystery. Jesus' last words on earth ring with clarity and power: "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you" (John 20:21). God is making us disciple-makers -  all  of us." - Andrew Knight, Director of Student Team

"Jesus was not kidding when he said, "Follow me." He was not bluffing when he said, "I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). God is serious about sending and firm about our fishing. His will is not a total mystery. Jesus' last words on earth ring with clarity and power: "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you" (John 20:21). God is making us disciple-makers - all of us." - Andrew Knight, Director of Student Team

This is authentic discipleship – That a group of U.S.-Americans would uproot themselves and be planted in the U.K. to invest their lives into a specific sphere of people (university students), who in turn would:

  • see the depraved state of their ethnocentric lives, as evidenced in current events,
  • be burdened by today’s racial violence and national-referendum uncertainties,
  •  know Jesus Christ is sovereign over all earthly kingdoms, and the gospel message means lasting reconciliation for the world’s ethnic divisions.

We, the SLP and CCP, feel blessed by having older men and women give us counsel for how the Gospel affects every area of life. This is true training.

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The S. L. P.

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The S. L. P.

During the end of May and beginning of June, our CCP team spent time adjusting to the UK and learning how to be ministry competent in this culture. Meanwhile, our English counterparts were revising and taking their final exams at their respective Unis. Now, both groups have come together and are participating in a program we call the Sheffield Leadership Project (SLP).

"We are very excited to be putting on a five-week program for students this holiday, similar to the Summer Training Projects we did back in the states." - Tim Devane, SLP '16 Director

"We are very excited to be putting on a five-week program for students this holiday, similar to the Summer Training Projects we did back in the states." - Tim Devane, SLP '16 Director

about the project

At Campus Outreach, our mobilization strategy is organized around the “lost worlds” graduates will find themselves in after college; back to the college campus, the neighborhood and workplace, and/or cross-cultural, overseas missions. The first ever Sheffield Leadership Project stays true to this strategy. It is an immersion experience focused on the word, community and people of God. The Project includes the CCP team, a group of six university students that study in Sheffield and one student who commuted from Brighton. The English and American students will spend the summer living together, getting training on evangelism and discipleship, and putting that into practice through ministering to various communities in Sheffield.

These SLP objectives gel with The Crowded House core values as well. The SLP has been an investment opportunity where we train and develop in three major Christian areas: word, community and mission. TCH ministry team’s main concern has been, and continues to be, that the SLP would see Jesus as more wonderful, more beautiful, and more glorious than anything else. God has enabled this to happen by His Spirit, and for that we are very thankful. I personally have learned a lot about what it looks like to do mission as an SLP community. It has been such a privilege to do ministry alongside God’s people in a place like Sheffield. Mission was never meant to be done alone, and being part of the SLP has grounded that reality for me in a number of ways. We hope that the SLP is an effort to live out an Acts 6:7 reality: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” 

"The SLP is: Intense, because we have so much going on during a day! Challenging, because I have been called out of my comfort zone. Sacrificing, because I die to myself daily. Encouraging, because I get to see God at work in my life over a short period of time. The SLP has been the best decision of my holiday!" - Kelly Tomlinson, SLP participant

"The SLP is: Intense, because we have so much going on during a day! Challenging, because I have been called out of my comfort zone. Sacrificing, because I die to myself daily. Encouraging, because I get to see God at work in my life over a short period of time. The SLP has been the best decision of my holiday!" - Kelly Tomlinson, SLP participant

team testimonies

During evangelism training, Andrew Knight challenged the SLP team to describe the gospel and how it applies to your life in one to two sentences. I have quoted some of the responses from my British teammates:

1) Kimbrah Watts’ experience of church life and what she was told about God never fit into the way she wanted to live. But when Kimbrah moved away from home for Uni, she realized how relevant and necessary Jesus’ sacrifice was for her. Because of Jesus’ actions, like his death and resurrection, Kimbrah is secure in his love and forever changed.

2) Francesca Gan believes all people find their identity in something. For Fran, it used to be following rules or a religious code. But Fran was never satisfied with her life, self or other people until she found her ultimate identity in something that will always satisfy – Jesus.

3) John Granford just became a Christian three weeks ago. Praise God! John said it was hard to sum up his testimony in a sentence, but if he could it would be: “My faith in Christianity is like Wi-Fi. It is invisible, but it has the power to connect me to what I truly need in life.”

4) Becky Knight believed in God since she was a child, but it has only been over the past year that she truly came to realize her need for a savior. Becky believes this is because of the selfishness and sin that was and can be in her heart. “Jesus lived the perfect human life and died the perfect death so that I could be set free from sin. He is my savior!”

5) Sophie Jones understood God’s grace as the sending of His son to take her judgment. By God’s grace, Sophie turned away from herself and toward Jesus, knowing it was because of him that she is redeemed and adopted into God’s family.

6) Dave Stewart was 15 when he had strong doubts whether there was a god or not. Dave’s skepticism towards the Gospel continued for another five years. Even in this season, Dave read THE book (the Bible) where he encountered the truth of Jesus Christ. Today Dave believes, “A godless worldview is an untenable position.”

prayer requests

Please join us in prayer as we take on a full load of ministry-minded activities this week….

  • Please pray for the students participating in the SLP this summer! Pray especially for them to grow in their love for Christ and desire to see him known and enjoyed in Sheffield.
  •  Pray that the Lord would continue to work where He is clearly already working, and that the speaking of Jesus’ name with Uni students would not return void.
  • Pray for the lost students who are excited about hanging out with us during our events: TCH gatherings, worldview nights, Thursday BBQs, the English language tutoring center, and other spontaneous events.
  • Pray we would build bigger hearts for ministering to the international students attending the Uni of Sheffield for the summer and/or the next years of their life.
  • Pray for the students who have expressed interest in learning about the gospel while visiting with our team.
  • Pray for the students who are open to talking about the existence of God, the legitimacy of Christianity and the implications of faith.
  • Finally, please pray for team unity, grace upon grace, and love to "cover a multitude of sins..."

Much thanks to our fabulous photographer: Alli Wood! Click through the slides.

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A Copenhagen Dream

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A Copenhagen Dream

In mid-June, the CCP team, some English students and Crowded House workers traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark. A big part of our one week trip was partnering with a local Acts 29 Danish church and helping them with anything they needed. Little did we know, the Danish Christians we met would be a great help to us…

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"A CHURCH THAT TAKES FAITH, DOUBT AND LIFE SERIOUSLY."

Copenhagen Church

Copenhagen Church (C.C.) began in 1998 after several Danish people met to discuss the possibility of forming a new congregation in Copenhagen. After vigorous growth, the church decided to move to the Bethesda school building to do worship. Pastor Claus Gronbaek describes C.C. as an independent, Evangelical Lutheran congregation. "This means that we have the same confession as the state Lutheran church, but are also completely separate and not bound by its laws, rules and bishops." Claus continued on a personal note, "Please pray for the leadership of Denmark's state church. That they would not conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Then they will be able to see what God's good, pleasing and perfect will is."

Sarah Trapp appreciated some of Claus’ inspiring stories: “He talked about inviting his unbelieving neighbors over to his house. Claus had no expectations of talking about Christianity during the fellowship, but he and his neighbors ended up praying over things happening in their lives! As the weeks progressed and more neighborhood gatherings occurred, Claus’ family and neighbors started reading the Bible together. I think this shows how people are drawn to Christianity through hospitality.”

"The Dream"

Pastor Claus’ kindred spirit carries into his thoughts on ecclesiology: “Any church ought to have a foundation that says something about who you are and a vision for what you want. A church manual ought to be the Bible, and we have three points that gather what the Bible says about being a church. We call it “The Dream” because we recognize that it is not yet a full reality in Copenhagen, but something we long and work towards that characterizes us as a church.” The Dream revolves around three words: gospel, community and mission. Gospel is a central and invaluable part of life in Copenhagen Church. Community is a determining factor in which Christians give and receive. Mission is something one comes to know and express themselves through thought, word and deed. Ida Pedersen is an intern at C.C. and gave us a walking tour of the university she attends. Ida describes The Dream as, "Sort of our vision for our church. We call it The Dream because it is something that we want to keep exploring, expanding and dreaming about."

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  Claus Grønbæk has been the lead pastor of Copenhagen Church for fifteen years. Claus considers himself a life-long learner of church planting.

Claus Grønbæk has been the lead pastor of Copenhagen Church for fifteen years. Claus considers himself a life-long learner of church planting.

Gudstjeneste & K-Grupper

Claus described worship at Copenhagen Church as a weekly session where members celebrate the church's lord and hope. "We have a gathering on Sunday where there are many people of all ages. We do music, song, prayer, reflection, communion and a sermon that is understandable and relevant." Through preaching, sacraments, and testimony, Claus equips and challenges people to a discipleship with Jesus. "We would also like to be a community during the week that looks to the interests of others. Therefore, we gather in small groups called "K-Grupper." A K-Group is a small community of about 7 to 10 people, where you can meet in each other’s homes and ‘share life together.’ K groups provide a platform to learn from one another, and to find out how Jesus, faith and forgiveness apply to ordinary Danish life.

A Strong Vision

Copenhagen Church's vision and characteristics have always been to "The ones we know, must know God." This vision has led to involvement in various networks and sources of inspiration. In recent years it has been particularly Acts 29 and The Crowded House in Sheffield, England who have been CC's role models and sparring partners. This has led to an increased focus on the gospel, leadership training, discipleship, fellowship and an identity of being "sent" to the world. 

Our group was extremely blessed by the church pastor and interns at Copenhagen Church. We learned more about C.C. from them, and what the Lord is doing in Copenhagen to advance His gospel. I think Devin Smith summarized the visit well when he said, "I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for new Danish friends from Københavner Kirken! Thank you for opening your homes, providing food, and for sharing your lives with us. We will remember flødeboller, laughter, and singing songs together. But most of all we will remember your love for us foreigners when we were in need."

"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality" (Romans 12:13).

The slide show is courtesy of Devin Smith and Alli Wood.

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Gospel Intentionality in Ordinary Life

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Gospel Intentionality in Ordinary Life

As you may know, The Crowded House (TCH) spearheads the ministry for our CCP team and the CO expansion. Previous CCPs have enjoyed being part of “Life Groups,” which were groups of 10 to 20 people separated into “ministry targets” or different lost people groups in Sheffield. Now, TCH has launched “Ministry Teams,” which stay true to the old life group endeavor of reaching people with the gospel through every day contexts. Steve Timmis, Lead Pastor of TCH and co-author of the book “Total Church,” writes on gospel intentionality: 

“Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bedrock of gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work which often goes unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. Whether it is helping a friend, working at the office or going to the cinema, there is a commitment to building relationships, modeling the Christian faith and talking about the gospel as a natural part of conversation. People often ask if they can come to see our ministry at The Crowded House. But all there is to see is ordinary people doing ordinary things…” (page 61).

For the past month, our team has accompanied "The Green House," which are weekly gatherings for people interested in joining a Ministry Team. We spend time eating meals at public spaces, studying biblical topics like vocation in the book of Proverbs, participating in small group discussion, and spending time in community. Michaiah Melody likes meeting people from The Crowded House and being involved in the different opportunities the church provides. “I feel a sense of community building as we meet every week. People from TCH are seeing how they can practically try to live out the gospel in different settings... Eating supper with everyone is pretty great too!”

I have talked with TCH members who are passionate about brainstorming new ministry possibilities. There are many ministry activities that are actively being planned for and could be launched if there are enough people from The Greenhouse interested in rallying for the activity. Some activities that already exist include: youth club, litter pickup, toddler groups, outdoor adventures and creative writing. My personal favorite is "PHAB," which stands for physically disabled and able-bodied group. Gareth Bagnell is a good mate of mine and is the leader of PHAB. Gareth told me, “It is a social club for physically disabled and able-bodied young people, aged 14 to 30. We love to do trips, holidays, swimming, sports, arts, crafts and outdoor pursuits.” I’ve been blessed by Gareth’s friendship. He values God’s sanctity of life and how God has created every person with equal dignity, value and worth, while also displaying God’s unique design in everyone. Our CCP team has been blessed by The Green House group and their drive to strategically and intentionally share the gospel in the ordinary.

Gareth (pictured left) explains what his Green House idea is all about.

Gareth (pictured left) explains what his Green House idea is all about.

Well, the week has finally come to an end and the Euro Cup is underway! We are excited to witness this event in a country so very passionate about football. God's faithfulness, despite repeatedly encountering apathy, atheism and extreme brokenness among Uni students has been real to us. As it will be our fifth full week being on campus, we have been aiming to follow up with the many relationships we have begun over the earlier weeks. There are many relationships we have made or will have the opportunity to follow up with in the coming weeks whether it be playing sports, grabbing lunches/tea, shopping, or (hopefully) visiting the Lake District. So pray for softened hearts, Godly conversation, fear of God (and not man), and opened eyes for our new friends to see and desire the Gospel to be true in their lives. I would also ask for prayer, for patience and continually renewed faith on our end. Pray that we would be rejoicing in God using us, whether we see the fruit or not. Thank you all again for your prayers and support! Feel free to page through the slide show posted below.

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Contextualizing Campus Outreach

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Contextualizing Campus Outreach

Some thoughts on the CO expansion and how this CCP is taking shape...

Andrew Knight, a CO director, recently posted a Desiring God article on the topic of missions. I encourage everyone to read it. Here is an excerpt: 
“I remember the time I first heard about the world’s greatest missionary (Jesus) — how he left his home, his family, and everything familiar to minister among the most unreached peoples. He immersed himself in his new culture and contextualized the gospel in every way, becoming all things to all people…” (www.desiringgod.org/articles/four-reasons-why-we-leave)

Andrew and Sara Knight arrived in Sheffield in July, 2015 to minister in a secularized and post-Christian Europe. Andrew now leads some of our CCP ministry trainings at a local Acts 29 church called The Crowded House. Our team has been learning how he and the rest of the Sheffield team can transition to a new culture and effectively minister in a different part of the world. The Knights, Devanes and Dischers are reminding our team that ministry contextualization is best lived out by being connected with the local Crowded House church. We are reminded that being church-based is a CO distinctive: “Campus Outreach believes in a relationship with the church. Unlike most campus ministries, CO is not a para-church organization. Though they are not connected to one particular denomination, each regional ministry is under the leadership of a regional church body.” 

CO staff, like Andrew, have collaborated with Crowded House pastors and elders over the years. The fruit of fostered partnership has been the launch of multiple CCP teams and a CO Sheffield team. Campus Outreach in England is still Campus Outreach. However, I have learned words like “campus” and “outreach” are not as relevant and used in Sheffield as they are in the Twin Cities. Therefore, in order to adapt to the present university context and reside under the local church authority, this CO team is known as "The Crowded House Student Workers." Andrew put it simply, “This is how we now identify ourselves.” 

Steve Discher noted, “The Crowded House student team in Sheffield seeks to minister to university students in the area. The Student Workers want to bless the city and universities in Sheffield by building relationships with students, encouraging students, and sharing a Christian perspective on life. We want to be connected and work with others in the city to help students in their time in University and the transition after graduation.” I agree. As Christians, we are united in our commitment to Christ. Yet, our individual roles and how we follow him can look very different because of our unique cultural circumstances.

Aaron Wang is excited to partake in a lot of the life-on-life activities Student Workers do all year. “I am really encouraged by the Student Workers’ passion for reaching lost Sheffield citizens and I think that directly flows into our CCP team. Andrew really has a heart for the nations. The Devanes and Dischers also bring a lot of experience which translates into a prepared Cross Cultural Project.”

I like how the Student Workers are so integrated into the Crowded House community and mission. I think adopting the church’s values provides a crucial source of accountability, leadership and resources to better build Christian laborers at The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

Andrew later concluded, “We hope to be able to connect local university students with our student workers and the Crowded House. Our Student Workers want to be strategic in being a safe church home for families and students. We are a seeking, welcoming, and discipling home.” Our team is excited to participate in this mission and we look forward to learning more ways that we can contextualize our methods while holding fast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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The "Pits" and "Peaks" of Sheffield

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The "Pits" and "Peaks" of Sheffield

We arrived last Saturday morning in Manchester and hopped on a train that took us to our home for the next seven weeks: Sheffield. We checked in to our accommodation for the summer, the Wilson Carlile Center, during the afternoon. We quickly settled in, and spent the remainder of the afternoon getting to know the city. Our team visited grocery stores like "Tesco" and local pubs like "The York." We really enjoyed the pub experience and talking with Tim and Cassie Devane about the city and culture, as they have been in Sheffield for over six months already. Our team walks most places, and I mean we really walk everywhere. Imagine the amount of walking you would do in a day at the zoo or an amusement park - now multiply that by 10 and you have a regular day in Sheffield!

Last Sunday was our first day at The Crowded House church. I had a great time worshipping with the local body on our first Sunday in the country. It was incredible to be with a body of people across the world, worshipping the same God, who redeemed us in Christ. I was reminded during worship through song that, for those of us in Christ, that we are known, loved, and accepted by a big God who is at work in massive ways all over the world. It was a privilege to be able to worship with our brothers and sisters here, and I look forward to the many more times we will be able to do that throughout the summer.

On Monday we gathered for a time of training on cultural awareness and practical advice for conversing with Sheffield citizens. Our team walked to Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens and started conversations with strangers, asking questions and hearing their stories, all with the intent of learning more about their culture. I talked with a gent named Hugh O’Daily. Hugh was very talkative and opinionated about U.K. politics in particular. Hugh recommended I visit the bear pit located on the other side of the Garden. He told me a story that took place during the Romantic period when people would capture bears and store them in the pit for entertainment. As bizarre as the story was, Hugh and I then had a helpful chat on the importance of animal treatment. Later that day, our CCP team joined CO Sheffield (the Devanes, Dischers and Knights), a group of U.K. University students and some members from TCH for a hike in the Peak District. It was a wonderful afternoon full of getting to know some of our ministry team and marveling at God’s beautiful creation.

Victoria Vineyard, a CO Greenville Staff member, shared her favorite ministry activity from this past week: "I enjoyed the nations training where Tim Devane did a talk on current event stories like the Syrian refugee crisis. I appreciated being reminded of the state of how a lot of people live in the world and just the sheer number of people without the gospel."

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I am blown away by the amount of generous people God has provided who have committed to pray and/or give financially in order to make this trip happen. If you are reading this, then that may be you; if so, thank you! 

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Greater Perspective on God's Mission

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Greater Perspective on God's Mission

We made it to Sheffield. Our team is experiencing a rush of emotions as we adjust to this new culture, but cannot avoid missing friends and family back home. I will be missing my friend Harmon, a 2016 Bethel University graduate and a member of last year's Cross Cultural Project team. I was able to ask Harmon a few CCP questions with the aim of helping our team understand the larger impact God’s mission can have on an individual and the world:

 

How were your expectations and feelings alleviated, challenged and/or changed during and after your CCP experience?

“In England I was able to see more of my weakness and God’s strength through it. God showed me that it (this season of life) was not all about me, but it was all about Him. I realized I would not be able to change someone’s heart, as that is something only God can do. My fears of having a perfect conversation to have someone understand the Gospel were alleviated when I put my faith in Jesus instead of myself.”

How do you now view short-term missions in light of doing CCP?

“Personally, I do not view CCP as a short-term mission, but a mid-term mission. The impact that we are able to have on students is much greater than what is had on week-long trips because of more opportunities for life-on-life discipleship and evangelism. Furthermore, I think that having long-term staff in Sheffield is helpful because even though our CCP team left, we were able to get students connected with the local church and staff from CO that would be there for a longer time. I know that I was impacted from this missions trip and I believe the relationships made with local church members and students were beneficial as well.”

How do you think your CCP experience will translate into this summer, being an STP ‘16 Team Leader and CO contingent staff?

“My CCP experience has already translated into being an STP Team Leader and CO contingent staff, as CCP helped to show me more of what a day in the life of a staff member looks like. Having more experiences in sharing the Gospel with those that do not understand it has allowed me to see that is something I want to do for the rest of my life. From my experiences I will also be able to remember that salvation, or a relationship with Jesus, is not based upon me or anything that I do, but God. Therefore I will be able to trust more in God while being a Team Leader and on Staff in the future.”

Our team is thankful for Harmon's words, as they provide insight into the long-term impact one mid-term missions project can have. Please pray that as our team settles into Sheffield we would learn from the people we meet at The Crowded House church and the ministry trainings we will receive from the CO Sheffield team. Pray that the God who created different cultures would use these things to draw us closer to Him.

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