Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last Lecture

I didn’t think I’d get the chance to write this week, but there’ve been a change of plans. We were supposed to leave for Puerto Viejo on Friday night, but a lot of people were still feeling sick, so our staff decided to leave Sunday morning instead.

We mostly were in class this week, but we did go to one of the Homes of Hope projects to lay a foundation. It was kind of awkward, because it absolutely did not require all eighteen of us. There was also a lot of rain, so we ended up only working for like two or three of the six we were supposed to. It was fun. I wish we could have done more, though.

This week’s teaching was superb. Our speaker was John Stenson, of Wisconsin, and he talked about evangelism. John reminded me a lot of Chris Gothold, one of PCC’s former high school pastors. He had a very non-linear teaching style. In the onslaught of wisdom thrown my way, I’ve found my whole idea of evangelism being completely redefined.

Jesus came to earth as a man to represent Himself to His creation. As Christ-followers, we’re called to be imitators of Jesus and therefore His representatives. Our lives should communicate the God’s good news for mankind; the good news that we can walk in freedom with our Creator.

What really challenged my perspective this week was the idea that evangelism is communicating God’s character, and not necessarily eliciting a response. I’ve always thought of evangelism as including the response, so I’ve shied away from sharing Jesus with people because I was afraid it wouldn’t provoke the life-changing decision that is expected. According to John, that’s not what it’s about. It’s all about sharing about who God is. That’s it. That alone, over time, will produce transformation.

John showed us two really cool images to illustrate this. First, he took a hammer and started pounding away at a rock. With each blow, the rock crumbled little by little until there was nothing left. This was meant to represent people’s walls they have to the gospel, and how no single interaction or encounter with God or His people will break those walls. Rather, a consistent exposure to God will do break apart the things that keep people from Him. The second image was scoring a goal in a soccer game. John set us up on a field and told us to pass a ball to one another to score a goal. We kicked the ball all the way down the field until the last person could kick it in. This showed us that the burden of sharing Christ is not on our shoulders as individuals, but as a team. We each have a part to play, but the victory does not hang on one person.

Why do we evangelize? Why do we tell people about Jesus? Because He wants everyone to know Him. He values every human being, as wants a relationship with them. We are precious to Him. We will never meet someone who is not completely loved and cherished by God. We should never pass up an opportunity to communicate this to people. God can use the smallest action to bless someone. A smile. A hug. Looking someone in the face. A kind word. We should never underestimate the small things.

Like I told you guys earlier, this was our last week of the Lecture Phase. No more classes. Our adventure pretty much begins this coming Monday in the jungles of Talamanca. We’ll be doing what is known as a “Niko Camp”, which is a week-long trip into the wilderness to prepare us for Outreach. It’s completely a secret, so I have no idea what is going to happen.

Roughly, my schedule will be the following. Immediately following the Niko Camp, the DTS will go to the Caribbean side for two weeks for our “local outreach”. Details have yet to be solidified, but there is talk of working with orphans. After that, we will split up into our Central and South American teams. Something weird happened to our plane tickets, so we have to stay in Panama for a week. Val and Julia are contacting the base in Panama City to see what we can do. After that, we will head to Lima. We’ll be staying in Lima for about a week where we will work with some local churches, possibly working with people with mental and physical disabilities. We will also be most likely working with Veronica’s House which has ties with the Not for Sale Campaign. It’s an organization that gets prostitutes off the street by teaching them a trade. After that we will go to Cuzco, hopefully to work at this coffeehouse ministry for backpackers. Hopefully we’ll make it up to Machu Picchu, as well. From there we will head to La Paz, Bolivia for another week to work with the YWAM base there. There’s more, I’m sure…and it will probably change…but that’s what I know for now.

I’m going to try to go to Freedom Street tonight, before we leave for Niko. I would really like to finally see this ministry in action.

I have to confess, I’m feeling pretty nervous for what’s ahead. Pray for me, guys.

Praise Reports
-I found out I didn’t have insurance, but I got some a few days ago.
-All my fees are paid off for YWAM.
-We’re going on Outreach!

Prayer Requests
-Physical protection. Health.
-Peace of mind in the chaos. Things are about to become very unstable. I’m going to have to trust God a lot for the next two months
-Freedom in Jesus. From fear. From insecurities. From expectations.
-A thankful heart.
-Pray as the Spirit leads…I feel like I’m gonna need a lot of it. Just let God speak to you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bible Study Break

This week was particularly academic. We learned about the Bible; what is really is, why to read it and how to interpret it as accurately as possible. I anticipated this week’s teaching to be much more boring, but it proved to be a surprisingly rich time of learning. To do this, we looked at a variety of scriptures from all both new and old testaments, but then focused in on the book of Philemon, which is only 24 verses long.

The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by different authors from different cultures over a span of 1,500 years. It was written in primarily three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. It is meant to be God’s personal letter to humanity, revealing who He is and conveying His desire to be in relationship with man. We read the Bible to know God, His person, His word and His plan. We read it to understand brokenness and the necessity of salvation. We read it to understand who we are and our purpose in life. We also read it use a reference for what is true or false.

In order to correctly study the Bible, one needs to recognize the historical context in which the Bible was written. It is necessary to examine author, setting, main idea, tone, and literary form. Some portions of the Bible are historical, some are poetic and artistic, and some parts are letters. When we read the Bible, we need to understand that relationship is the driving motivation behind everything in the book. If you just read it without understanding these hidden details, you won't get the full message.

Philemon is such a rich letter from the Apostle Paul. He writes to his friend Philemon from a Roman prison. During his time in chains, Paul meets Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus and leads him to Christ. Paul writes to Philemon, as well as the church that meets in his home, encouraging them to accept Onesimus back as their brother, because in Christ there is no difference between the slave and the free man. It’s an awesome letter. It speaks so much about accountability and equality. It also shows the necessity of tactfulness. You should read it; it’s really short. Use a study Bible, though, so you can cross reference other books in the New Testament.

In contrast to our intense studies, this week was peppered with equally intense recreation. Our base leaders, Giacomo and Marjolein are gone for a few weeks to visit family in Holland, so Spencer was running things. He already plays such a huge role around here, managing the base’s finances, so he had a busy week ahead of him managing everything else. It was also his 40th birthday, so his wife organized an 80’s dance party to surprise him when he came to work on Tuesday morning. Everyone dressed in ridiculously bright colors, short shorts and side-ways baseball hats and danced along with this aerobics’ instructor Vanessa brought in. That night, we went to the movies for as a small group activity. We saw the new X-Men. Movies are so cheap here! It’s only $3.

Finally, I’ve been given some more information about this summer. While some things are still up in the air, Julia and Val shared with us the general picture of what we’re going to be doing in Peru and Bolivia. We’re going to begin in Lima and go south towards Bolivia, trying to get involved with various ministries along the way. They mentioned working with disabled peoples in Peru, as well as orphans. We’re apparently going to go on an eight day hike in the Andes, to minister to backpackers. There was more, but I honestly forgot the rest. I suppose I will find out soon, won’t I?

Our leaders assured us that, despite our business this summer, we would have times of rest and rejuvenation, too. We’d have one free day a week, and we’d have times of solitude to spend time with God to relax. We’d continue our Bible studies, and continue to keep one another accountable and process together. Julia and Val also gave us roles for our Outreach team. I was assigned to help supervise what ministries we will be involved in, along with two other people. This wasn’t very clear, either, but I’m excited. Val told me we’d mostly be assisting her in praying about what God wants us to do, where He wants us to go, talking to church leaders etc. It was pretty exciting to hear more, after not hearing anything for so long.

We went to help at Spencer and Vanessa’s new house again to help them with construction. Everyone was sanding this time. They split us up, putting half of us downstairs and the other upstairs. This time we had masks, so we weren’t breathing in the dust. This didn’t protect the rest of us, though. By the time we were all done, everyone was covered in white dust from head to toe. It was pretty funny. We kept slapping one another on the back or the leg to “mark our territory.” It started raining really hard, so a few of us ran back to the base to shower off.

On Friday night we were invited over to house of one of Freedom Street’s leaders, Elizabeth, for a game night. I played battleship with Chris and Phillip. Needless to say, I took them down. It was quite close, though. Phillip and I hung out outside for a while and went for a walk. My Bolivian brother is such an encourager, I love talking with him. We talked about some concerns I had about the upcoming events of YWAM, which I’ll describe more below, and gave me some really good advice for taking on what lies ahead. Remember his knee I prayed for? It’s completely healed, thanks be to God. He told me he jumped into a river a few years ago, but it was too shallow so he hurt his knee. Years of playing basketball didn’t help, either. He gleefully confirmed that it was now in perfect condition. God is so powerful.

This weekend was kind of random. The two outreach teams split up on Saturday; Central America went to practice their dramas and skits with Metro Ministries, a local children’s outreach, and the South America team was planning on bonding over a picnic in this big park downtown. Unfortunately, this attempt at a nice afternoon in the park failed very quickly. We couldn’t find parking near the park, so we had to park about half a mile away. As we walked towards the park, it started pouring rain and thundering like crazy. We were stranded under this awning for like forty-five minutes, while some of us ate sandwiches and played Frisbee in our limited dry space. Someone went to go get the car, and we decided to go to McDonald’s since it was raining so hard. This took forever, of course, because of the traffic. When we got there we were informed the power was out, so we couldn’t order anything. We decided to go to the one near the base. After we ate and hung out for a bit, we found that our van had broken down and we couldn’t start it. Immediately following this discovery, the car next to us backed into the van. In Costa Rica, you don’t exchange information; you have to call the police. So we had to wait for that to get resolved before we got out in the rain to push start the car.

To my great disappointment, Freedom Street didn’t go out this Saturday. The ministry always begins with prayer and worship before heading downtown. Our leaders, for some reason, didn’t feel peace about going and many people felt a leading from the Holy Spirit to stay behind. A common impression was that it was for some reason more dangerous for us to go than usual. At this point, I don’t know if this was ever confirmed…but either way I suppose I have to just trust that God didn’t want us to go. Instead, we stayed back and prayed for San Jose. We prayed for the prostitutes that Freedom Street has been involved with, that God would keep them safe and encounter them despite our absence. We also prayed that God would stifle any violence in the streets.

I had a hard time accepting that, I have to say. I’ve wanted to go to the streets so badly. But God wanted me to stay again. At least I wasn’t alone, though. No one got to go. My friends and I were pretty confused. Everyone wanted to go, but everyone pretty much felt like we weren’t supposed to. It felt like one of those things where a child wants to tag along with their parent, but can’t because they’re too young or it’s too dangerous. I really hope I can get another opportunity to go down, because our time in San Jose is running very short.

This next week is our last week of Lecture Phase. This coming Friday, we’re leaving for the beach for the weekend, and then to the jungle to go camping for a week. It’s a YWAM tradition (for some bases around the world) to go on this camping trip before Outreach Phase. It’s supposed to be extremely challenging. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s called the Niko Camp, which is Greek means “to overcome.” This is what I was talking to Phillip about on Friday, because he staffed a camp in Bolivia. When we get back, we’re going to begin our outreach phase within Costa Rica for two weeks. No more classes. From here on out, we’re going to be serving. After those two weeks, we’re leaving to catch our flight in Panama to Peru.

Prayer Requests
- My check from PCC hasn’t arrived yet in the mail. Apparently, it takes three weeks for a check to process. If it doesn’t get here soon, I technically won’t have all my funds by the time we leave for Peru. I will be $800 short. PLEASE PRAY IT ARRIVES THIS WEEK.
- After this week, we will be officially on Outreach Phase. Pray for rest and preparation for all of us. Pray that we could spend time with Jesus, and that we can get sufficient sleep.
- Pray for healing for the sick and the injured.
- Pray for courage for Niko. I’m pretty nervous about it.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Hello Friends and Family.

Today, June 17, 2011 is the official deadline for getting our funds in to go on our Outreach to Peru and Bolivia. It also the deadline for the other Outreach team that is planning to go to El Salvador and Honduras.

Thanks to you guys, as well as PCC’s mission team and God’s provision, I have been able to raise enough money to pay for the next few months of my life. While I have reached my goal, there are still others on my team and the other team who have not. I don’t know who these people are specifically…I know there is at least one staff worker, and several students…but our leaders have communicated to us that collectively we have not reached our goal.

Next week is our last week of Lecture Phase, before we transition into our Outreach. Thankfully, we spend the first three weeks of outreach locally, in Costa Rica, before we leave. Please pray for our last efforts to raise funds. Pray for generosity from people’s friends and families and churches back home. Pray that we who have the means could also give generously. If you could also pray about donating to YWAM so everyone is able to go on this adventure God has called us to, that would be wonderful as well.

I can’t believe how close we are to moving out to our mission. I feel like I’ve only just arrived. Pray for the Lord to prepare our hearts this final week.

If you feel led to donate to YWAM, you can put the money in my paypal account via the link below. I can transfer the funds to my bank and write a check to the base. Please email me if the link below doesn’t work.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just another week.

Marjolein Coghi spoke again this week, this time on relationships. Ugh. She’s such a wonderful woman, and I love when she speaks for us, but this topic is so obnoxious. It was all good stuff, for sure, don’t get me wrong. A lot of us really benefited from it. There was so much wisdom and revelation gained for my brothers and sisters. I, however, am done talking about relationships…mostly because there was a huge emphasis on romance. Ugh. I’m so sick of it. God has me single right now, and I believe it’s for a reason. I believe He wants me to learn to be content alone, to become complete as a man. He wants to make me into a good brother, and a good son. He’ll make me a good lover later, I’m sure. I just don’t want to think about women right now. I just want to be okay by myself.

Outside of romantic relationships, however, there is much wisdom to apply. Basically, we need to love people. We need to trust one another, enough to be vulnerable. We need to be honest. We need to respect one another, and see each other’s needs above our own. We need to understand one another, and not just look at things from our standpoint. We need to be compassionate.

One morning, during a praise and worship session before class, the Holy Spirit came to move among us. The whole base was in the common area, for the weekly worship, and the Holy Spirit prolonged it for a couple more hours than scheduled. A lot of people were sick from the weekend away, and we felt that God wanted to heal them. We prayed corporately, but then individually. I was feeling pretty sick myself, and I had a few aches and pains, but I was not healed…maybe because I didn’t ask anyone to pray for me specifically. Curiously enough, some people I prayed over were healed. This girl Molly who was visiting from the Air Force Academy asked me to pray for her injured shoulder and it was made well. I felt led to pray for Phillip’s knee, which he hurt here at some point, and he said it was feeling much better afterwards. He had been going on runs with a knee brace, but not anymore. Praise God. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen healings.

Despite this, I was still kind of discouraged that God hadn’t healed me. While no one laid hands on me, I still pleaded for healing. I’ve been really congested, and my tailbone still hurts a little bit sometimes. I also slept on my neck in a weird position in panama, therefore making head-turning a little challenging. Obviously these things are very minimal, but I could do without them. I still don’t really understand why God doesn’t heal people when they ask Him to. There are so many theories, but I think they’re all bogus. Who can explain God and rationalize the fullness of His ways in human words. I later found out that I wasn’t alone in this. Not everyone was healed that morning.

We wrote letters to God one morning, and prayed for a reply. I didn’t want to do it, because I wasn’t feeling very connected these past couple of days. I didn’t want my troubled mind to get in the way of me hearing God’s voice. I protested by not beginning my letter until like twenty minutes in, but I eventually poured out my struggles of the week in my letter. I was feeling lonely. Homesick. For some reason I’ve been comparing myself to my brothers here on the base and finding myself jealous of them. I told God that I’ve been feeling insecure with myself. It’s been really easy for me to see the gifts and talents God has given my new friends, and feel less than them. I also asked Him why He didn’t heal me the other day. As I was writing, I felt like He would whisper a response to every word I jotted down. We were to write God’s response on a separate piece of paper:

Dear Charlie,
You must remember that I am faithful. I have been with you since your first breath, and I haven’t stepped away for one moment. You are eternally and fully loved. You are valuable to me. I always want to spend time with you. I can’t get enough of you! I love when you talk to me, and I love it when we go on walks together.
Charlie, you need to stop comparing yourself to others. I have made nothing the same, yet I have made everything a masterpiece. You, my boy, are a work of art. Mine. Priceless. One of a kind. And remember: I do not make mistakes.
Remember this, also: restoration is coming, and I am going to raise the dead.

With Love,

In light of healthy relationships, we did something very interesting to promote unity among our team. Friday, we participated in what YWAM refers to as “Giving Day.” Everyone is supposed to pray about giving something, either material or sentimental, to someone else. I was a little nervous about this, because I didn’t bring much of value. The things I did bring were also brought by everyone else; my laptop and my iPod. I didn’t bring much clothing, and I was in huge need of money. For some reason when I prayed, I immediately thought of this glow stick Steven Rozzi had put in my suitcase before I left California. I don’t know why, I just felt like it was supposed to symbolize something for someone else, or provide a reminder while they were on Outreach. I wasn’t sure who, I just knew I was supposed to give someone the glow stick and affirm them. We all sat in a circle, awkwardly I might add, and waited for people to make their moves.

Some gave pieces of clothing. Some gave money. Some gave away iPods, and laptops. Some people met others’ simple needs, like giving them a pen because they lost theirs. It was particularly moving to see people give away their time, offering to take people out for dinner, or doing their work duty for them to give them a day off. Two of my friends spoke up and explained to me, during this time, that they felt like God wanted to provide for me so together they gave me $300. I felt really silly giving away my stupid little glow stick after seeing such beautiful generosity.

I gave my glow stick to someone who serves as a light in my life. I have it to someone who is constantly showing me God’s love, and who is always encouraging me. I’d like to dedicate this next paragraph to my friend Peter, from Denmark. He is a true and sincere friend, because he treats me with such brotherly love. Peter, when not cracking jokes, is always encouraging and affirming people. At the same time, his is completely honest and real with you. He loves spending time with the people he cares about, and is unwaveringly supportive of his friends. He comes to every yoga session, and will go out for a run with you at the drop of a hat. If he hears you agreeing with the enemy, saying that you’re not good enough or you can’t do something, he rebukes you and tells you the truth that you are created in the image of God and anything is possible with Him. I pray that my stupid little glow stick could serve as an affirmation for him, that he would know God has filled him with light.

Saturday night was such a bummer. This last week I finished my training to participate in Freedom Street, the prostitution ministry. Everyone who was finished just had to fill out an application so the leadership could pray about our participation. Of course, I forgot to turn in my application on time, so I couldn’t go out. One of the leaders did, however, read my application on the spot and talked with me about it. She questioned my motives behind working with the people on the street. On my application I mentioned, and perhaps over emphasized, my eagerness because of the uniqueness of the opportunity. It was a good reason, she said, but it’s not the best reason. I was given the suggestion to examine my heart a little more this week before coming out to the streets.

So, instead of going out to the street corners, I spent some time with God and asked Him to confront me with whatever He needed to. I was asking God why I couldn’t go out to the streets. In response, He asked me “why do you want to go?” I told Him, “I wanna do something significant; I don’t wanna just survive, I don’t want to just live a life characterized by consumption and resting. I want to feel like my life to counts for something.” To which He replied with the same question. “Why? Why do you want to feel significant?” Doesn’t everyone want this, I thought. Doesn’t everyone want to feel valuable? Doesn’t everyone want to feel like there is a reason for them to be breathing? Yes, God said, but that value doesn’t come from what we do. It comes from what God already did, and what He says about us. He pointed out to me that I should not go to the streets to do something that will make me feel valued, but rather go to the streets to help people discover the value in themselves that they do not know. I should go because the prostitutes are valuable to Jesus. Ouch.

Praise Report:
- God is up to something in my heart. He’s speaking to me a lot about contentment.
- My funds for outreach have increased! Thank you my dear friends for your generosity. I only have $535 left to raise until I’m in the clear. Five more days until my deadline.

Prayer Requests:
- Security in my identity. Knowledge of where my value lies.
- Finances. We’re almost there!
- Team unity. Please, please, please. Closeness, intimacy, and vulnerability. Trust and honesty.
- Courage for what lies ahead in Outreach. Peace of mind as we draw nearer to our departure.
- Divine appointments. Words from the Lord. Miracles. Signs and Wonders. Whatever He’s got up there.