An invitation to grace

Let’s be frank. I go out every single day and ask people what they believe about their world, about life after death, about the existence of God, about the person of Jesus Christ. I go out every single day and do evangelism. Really, truly, evangelism. A word that used to scare the crap out of me (and sometimes still does). A word I thought was reserved for men preaching crazy things on TV on Sunday mornings. A word I never wanted anything to do with. A word that now describes my every day life.

Every. Single. Day.

Lately I have been thinking about why I do what I do. How do people define evangelism? What does the Bible say about it? Wait, how would I describe it?

“Evangelism is the preaching of the Christian Gospel or the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of conversion.” 

“The spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.”

“Zealous advocacy of a cause.”

All of these things would help to explain the concept of evangelism to someone who has never before heard the word, but they just scratch the surface of what we as Christians are called to do. Here is what I have come to understand after a year here in Uruguay where somehow, someway, I ended up with evangelism as my job.

It’s so much more than arguing and convincing people that logically there are two options: either the universe is eternal or an eternal God exists that created the universe and there has to be something to start the universe because it’s illogical to think that something can come out of nothing and…… It’s not about philosophy or reason. Yes, we read in 1 Peter that we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”.  I am not saying that these things don’t have a place. I know that some people are seeking and these arguments could just be the thing that convince them to follow Jesus. That’s great! Please, may we be aware of why we believe what we believe. May we be people who understand philosophy and logic and math and science. May we be educated students of the world around us, but may we also remember that it is God who draws us in and God who will give us a new heart and put a new spirit in us; He will remove from us the heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh.

It’s even much more than the Bible verses we memorize about evangelism or the obligation we may feel to convert others in order to be a good Christian. Again, please let us study the Scripture. Let us trust that the Bible is God’s flawless, pure, and trustworthy word for us. May we be aware that we are all commanded to go, all told to make disciples. May Paul’s example and testimony impress upon us the great calling we have to declare the mystery of Christ. May we be encouraged to be ambassadors for Christ, reconciled to God and now carriers of the ministry of reconciliation. May we be challenged by the way Jesus lived his years on earth, preaching truth boldly everywhere He went without hesitation.

But may we remember that in all of this, evangelism is simply telling others who Jesus is for us personally. It is proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. I quickly realized that I need to meet with Jesus in order to do my “job” because evangelism is so much more than a command. It is a way of life, a way of inviting others into this freedom and joy that we experience because we know Jesus. Evangelism is inviting others into this wild story of scandalous grace that God has for every single one of us. May we be people who live out this invitation.

“Porque por gracia sois salvos por medio de la fe; y esto no de vosotros, pues es don de Dios; no por obras, para que nadie se gloríe.” -Efesios 2:8-9

Advertisements

God meets me in the running

I stretch at the bottom of the steps before springing open our heavy green door and stepping out onto the loud Uruguayan street. I run past the art museum, shouting “buen día” at the man who always sits there, just a few doors down from my apartment. Why haven’t I ever asked his name? I run past the man selling newspapers on the corner and make a hard left turn to start my trek toward the rambla, toward the sea. For this first half mile I am aware of each step, making sure not to step on loose sidewalk tiles or fresh piles of dog doo. I am fully aware of my surroundings, stopping at stoplights, dodging people on every block, breathing in secondhand smoke and car fumes. After about five minutes I reach the bottom of the hill where I cross a few lanes of busy morning traffic, and then my feet land on the rambla. Once I have arrived, I settle into the rhythm of waves crashing against the slow steady hum of traffic; I get lost in my own thoughts. In the wind and the waves and the prayers, God meets me in the running.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
-Psalm 139:7-10

The riches of His love

“Contame, Sis, decime tus problemas,” Ana Lucia said, as we sat on my balcony drinking coffee, sharing a hot ham and cheese sandwich, listening to the traffic whizzing by below us, speaking spanish a million miles a minute. Tell me, Sis, tell me your problems, tell me what was hard this summer. As the sun set around us, I shared the joys and struggles of the past few months at home in the States and listened as she poured out her stories too. In this moment, finally seeing my crazy Brazilian best friend again and finally letting out a lot of what has truly been hard recently, I couldn’t help but thank God for His perfect plan. Never in a million years would I have imagined that two years of my life would be a collection of rich moments such as this. I never could have imagined these deep friendships in a different language, the joy that comes with learning a new culture, or the great hope I now have for a nation I knew nothing about. I never could have imagined the emotion that comes with being part of His kingdom work. I never could have imagined the riches of His provision.

Naturally when I think of God’s love for me, I think of the cross. Yes, because of God’s great love for me, for you, for all, He sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sins to draw us near to Himself, to give us grace, love, forgiveness and life everlasting. This is God’s love, of course, but I often forget that His love abounds in so many other ways as well!  In the last year, God has used Uruguay to open my eyes and heart to the world around me, to His power, to His love, and to His beautiful work of changing lives. In the last week, God has used my team and my return to this country to show me how much He loves me over and over again. In the last 24 hours, He has used Ana Lucia to remind me of my beauty and my worth and of His perfect plan for my life. His love is woven into the every day, evident in the things that bring me joy. He will always provide for every thing we need. His plan is truly perfect. The riches of His love will always be enough.

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:19

 

On what is new, and what will stay the same

Year 2. As this Minnesotan summer came to a close and I said my goodbyes to my beautiful people, I couldn’t help but realize that many of them, almost all of them, are starting new journeys this year. Last year was a transition year for many and this year we will walk forward together in newness. The newness of engagement, of marriage, of moves across the country, of new roommates and of new big kid jobs. I sat praying for all of these new beginnings and found myself asking, “But, Lord, what about me?” What does year 2 look like? What does this mean? Is going back to Uruguay new or old? “The same, but different” is the not-so-comforting-but-true wisdom I got from my best friend, and this oxymoron actually sort of describes how I am feeling as I once again leave Minnesota and fly to Montevideo, Uruguay. So what is new about this year and what will stay the same? 

Rachael, me, Holly, Zach, and Andy
Rachael, me, Holly, Zach, and Andy

A new team.

Yay! I am praising God for His provision because He put this team together! So far, so good 🙂 We spent last week together at our STINT Briefing conference in Chicago, learning about God’s heart for the world and learning about what this next year on STINT (Short Term INTernational) could look like for us as we do full-time cross-cultural ministry. Of course, we also spent most of the week laughing together, spent one day exploring downtown Chicago, and spent hours practicing a step routine that we performed on one of the last days of the conference. These four are AWESOME and I’m so excited to work with them to bring the love of Jesus to Uruguayan college students. Praying that we will step out in great faith this year, pray BIG prayers, and trust God for the impossible. 

A new role.

Most know that I am going back with the same job, working full-time for Cru (Cruzada or Vida Estudiantil in Uruguay) but this year I, along with Zach, have been asked to lead the team! This basically means we will have slightly more responsibility and authority over the team this year. We will work more closely with the Uruguayan couple also on staff with Cru (Andres and Silvana) and have a role in caring for our team through the challenges of living and doing ministry overseas. I am so thankful for this opportunity to depend on the Lord and grow in leadership!

Some new expectations.

I have a year of experience in Uruguay already so naturally, this changes my expectations a little bit. Last year I was leaving the comfortable and stepping out into something completely 100% unknown. I cried the whole way there on the plane and I had almost no expectations. This year, I know the things I am going back to. I know the things that are hard, the things that I hate, and also all of the things that I love so much about Montevideo. My apartment will hopefully feel like home, the language won’t be quite as foreign, and I will have friends welcoming me upon arrival. I know what the food is like, what the weather is like, and más o menos, what ministry looks like there. I expect the transition to be easier, but I also know that God has a plan for me to grow in new ways this year as I walk with Him. 

The same hopes, dreams, and goals.

Cru all over the world aims to reach lost students for Jesus, build them up in their faith, and send them out as Christ-centered laborers. This is and always will be our goal as we step onto the college campus in Montevideo. This is something that we experienced on our campuses here in the States, something we are excited about, and something we believe in! The goal is not to force Christianity into people’s lives or tell them that they are wrong in what they believe. Our hope is that we could break through the apathy present among college students, break down the negative stereotypes the have about the church, and help the students to see Jesus for who He really is. We have experienced Christ’s redeeming power in our lives and we want to share that with as many people as possible. It is such a joy to join God where He is working and serve Him in Uruguay!

The same love.  

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  All of these things we do out of the love of Jesus Christ, who loved us so much He gave himself up for us as payment for our sins so that we could have a right relationship with God the Father. We love because He first loved us. As I grow in my own faith and continue to learn about God, I understand more and more His love for me and for the world. We are in Uruguay controlled by this love, desiring to share it with people who have never heard the name of Jesus. 

Prone to wander

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above

Never before have these lyrics resonated so closely with my heart as they did tonight. Tears snuck out of my eyes as I joined the congregation in worship, as I breathed for what felt like the first time all week. Since I landed in Minneapolis last Friday, life has been a whirlwind. A crazy beautiful whirlwind (an extrovert’s dream, really) complete with my loving family, sweet moments with amazing friends, birthday celebrations, Minnesota summer sunshine, my favorite foods, and so much joy. But amidst the joy, something has been weird in my heart. Something has felt uneasy. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. People who have traveled a lot or who have been overseas have been asking me about the culture shock of being home, but I haven’t been able to explain what I’ve been feeling. I wasn’t able to give an answer about something physical or obvious about the transition home that has been hard, but I knew that something on a heart level needed to be processed. Tonight as I honestly presented my heart to the Lord (finally) I came to the conclusion that I am simply feeling distracted. Distracted in the best way possible because all of the distracting things are things I love dearly, but distracted nonetheless. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. The things of this world have become so much more evident back in my fast-paced, success-based, individualistic American culture and they are distracting my heart, my heart that can so easily wander from the God I love. I have been caught up in the endless wants and distracted by the opportunity of the American dream. I know that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ. I know that Jesus is the highest reward and that there is nothing that compares to the joy of following Him, but this week it has been hard to believe these truths, to let them sink into my heart, to delight in them. So here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. Take my heart and use my life for your glory, and your glory alone. Give me a God-listening heart. Remind me that I am running a race worth running, that I am citizen of heaven, that I am reaching out for Christ who has so wondrously reached out for me. Remind me that You work all things for good for those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose. Remind me that I am not defined by what I do, that You care much more about my character than You do about the things that I possess, that because I have You I have everything. Remind me that Your plan is perfect, that You don’t make mistakes, that You will always walk before me. Renew my mind and write Your Word on my heart. You are gracious, omnipotent, all-knowing. Great is Thy faithfulness and Your love never fails. Jesus, may Your truth resonate in my heart and mind. May I walk knowing that You are with me, You will never leave me and You will never let me down. Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Help me to seek Your face. Give me the courage to live the life You have planned and prepared for me before the foundation of the world. May I live truly believing that knowing You is all that matters. May the Gospel be fresh in my heart and fresh on my lips. May I desire to make Your name famous, not my own. May I be more distracted by Your majesty than I am by the fortune and fame the world can offer me. Amen.

“Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One).”                                     –Philippians 3:8 AMP

Es imposible resumir un año

Al final de nuestro tiempo en Uruguay, Andrés nos preguntó a compartir algo sobre nuestra experiencia en Uruguay y a desafiar a los estudiantes de Cruzada. Las chicas y yo decidimos en casa que sería mucho mejor escribir algo en vez de solo hablar sobre el año en frente de todos en la ultima reunión. Lo que sigue es lo que compartí.

Hace tres años vine a Uruguay en Summer Project. Después del verano nunca pensé en volver, pero gracias a Dios sus planes siempre son mejores que los míos. El hizo algo en mi vida, cambió mi corazón y me trajó de vuelta a Uruguay. Dios me sorprendió mucho en este año.

Realmente es imposible resumir un año, es imposible expresar todo lo que siento sobre mi tiempo aquí.. Primero, creo que todos podemos decir que aprendimos mucho en este año. Aprendimos mucho sobre el español, sobre la cultura, sobre el país, y sobre nuestro Dios. Yo sé que ustedes me han enseñando mucho más de lo que les enseñé. Desde el momento en que llegamos en agosto, me he sentido querida y amada. Aprendí mucho sobre el amor de Dios a través de la cultura uruguaya y más especifica esta comunidad de Vida Estudiantil. He sido bendecida por sus amistades, su paciencia con nosotros, su amor, su risa, su fe y su devoción a Jesucristo.

En este año, conocí a mujeres preciosas y valientes, comprendí mucho mejor que Dios siempre esta obrando y siempre esta en busca de los perdidos, compartí el evangelio, y vi Dios cambiando las vidas de estudiantes. A través de los momentos difíciles cuando extrañaba a mi familia o no podía hablar en español o no tenía mas paciencia, Dios me mostró su poder y su amor.

Lo que quiero decir para desafiarles y animarles viene de 1 Crónicas 22. David le encargó a su hijo Salomón a construir el templo para el Señor. También David les ordenó a todos los líderes en Israel que ayudaran a Salomón. En este pasaje, David les dice primero que Dios esta con ellos. También les habla de todo los que Dios ha hecho por ellos en el pasado. Y por ultimo, les dice “busquen el Señor con todo corazón y con toda el alma”. Por favor, vayan y comiencen construir el templo.

Acuerdense que Dios siempre esta con ustedes! Sabemos que solo El nos da las fuerzas para seguir adelante y para servirle. El ha sido fiel en el pasado y siempre será fiel. Mi desafío para ustedes es que busquen al Señor con todo el corazón. Lean su Palabra y oren con FE porque El les puede usar. Cada uno de ustedes tiene un propósito especial para servirle a Dios y para construir su templo y su Reino aquí en Montevideo.

Es una bendición servir a Dios con todos ustedes y estoy muy emocionada de volver en agosto! Los quiero a todos!

 

A few thoughts on leaving

This weekend we had all of the women from Vida Estudiantil sleepover at our apartment (21 en total). We made homemade pizzas and ate and played cards and talked and laughed and watched a movie. When we woke up on Saturday morning, one of the women, Viviana, led us in a devotional on Psalm 139. After sharing thoughts and asking questions, Ana Lucia prayed for us. As we stood in my dining room, holding hands in a circle, praying, something about it made me cry. As I listened to Ana thank God for this community, for these women, for His love grace and mercy, I started to cry because something about it felt so divine. I was soaking it in, knowing that I will never be able to recreate that moment, this year in Uruguay, this life.

When I think about leaving on Thursday the only thing I can compare it to is leaving my dorm in Pioneer Hall after my freshman year at the University of Minnesota. Emma and I stood in the empty dorm room and hugged and cried (hello, dramatic) even though we had plans to see each other in a few days, even though we knew we would be living together again in a few months. I think it was because freshman year in a lot of ways, changed everything. It was totally new, something we had never experienced before, and we came to know Jesus in a new way that year.  We experienced real Christian community and began to really understand His great love for us through people we now call best friends. We started to see Him at work in the details of our lives and in the lives around us. To me, this year feels similar because everything is new once again. Never before had I experienced life in another country or full time ministry or being so far from family or friends and God has shown up in so so many new ways. I have come to know Jesus in a new way as I talk about Him daily with students, as I worship Him in a different language, as I continue to read His Word and walk with Him. So even though I know that I will be back in a few months, I’m sad leaving because I know it will be different when I come back in August. The city won’t change and the things I love about it will remain and my wonderful friends will still be here to come back to (Gracias a Dios), but I will have a new team and new expectations and things will definitely be different. It will be different the same way that sophomore year was different from freshman year at the U of M, because in a lot of ways that first year changed everything, and this year has too.