Monday, June 25, 2012

Kufre Inyang (Seniors 2012)

I mentioned in my last post that many of our students who have been most impacted by the weekly evangelistic outreaches have been very quiet and typically reserved students.  One such evangelist is Kufre Inyang.   

Kufre hails from Houston, Texas and he and I met a few years ago at a Chinese Bible study meeting  here on campus.  I remember it clearly, because he and I were two of the only non-Asian's at the meeting. He was quite comfortable in that setting, so I was immediately interested to know his story.    I could tell right away that he was very un-pretentious.   We got some time to hang out a few months later while "chalking" the campus walkways -the preferred method of advertising at Cornell -before an Easter Sunday service.   There I discovered that Kufre is a man of steadfast action and often very few words.  (For example, on "Senior Share night" he got up and spoke from the heart for about a minute and a half.  Powerful and concise.)

He’s regarded as a “Gentle Giant” of sorts among his friends.  He is a kind and compassionate person though he might strike you at first as a tough guy.   His peers respect him and appreciate his authenticity, dependability and loyalty.   Although he’s quiet, those who know him best describe him as passionate. 

Kufre is defined by his commitment, dedication and persevering spirit.   For 4 years he has served faithfully in the Christian community and in our ministry at Cornell.  Along with Tom and the rest of the EvMOSGo team he gave leadership to the weekly EV.   That required him to step outside of his comfort zone and engage people socially.  Because he is so naturally introverted, I know this was a challenge and a step of faith.   He served consistently as a volunteer in our ministry and took on responsibilities willingly.   He has a few friends who know him intimately, but everyone knows you can count on him for help, and if you give him a task, he will follow thru.  If you ask him to be there, he will show up. 

Kufre is a capable leader and efficient organizer.  He both participated and coached intramural sports teams and lead out with Cru.  Kufre will be missed at Cornell.  

Because Kufre is such an athletic beast; one of my fondest memories at Cornell was at the fall getaway when I scored two goals on Kufre in a game of "Big Red Ball!"  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Old School EV (Seniors 2012)

Historically, Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru as we are now called) has been infamous for walking up to people and intentionally starting a conversation about God, often sharing the short 4 point Gospel outline originally put together by Bill Bright.   It was first titled "the 4 spiritual laws" and that's certainly been the name that stuck, but over the years it's taken on new titles (and colors) including our present rendition which we call the "Knowing God Personally booklet" or the "KGP"
There is great value in learning how to share your faith using a simple outline or pamphlet even though they are limited and nobody has ever written the "perfect" one.  (A common critique is that pamphlets, tracts and illustrations are "reductionistic" and fail to convey the fullness of the gospel.  That's true.  And actually, every time the Gospel is shared it is necessarily "reduced" in some way for the sake of time, intelligibility and preaching, in Bible study or in pamphlets.)

On the whole Cru doesn't do as much "cold contact" evangelism as we used to.  This is mainly because it doesn't connect with people like it used to.   I think this is because the Biblical presuppositions that most short pamphlets rely on are not as familiar to people and are definitely not as embraced.  With that, our culture is generally more skeptical towards Christians, the Bible and the Christian message than it once was, and when you are initiating conversations with strangers, it's harder to engage in a way that builds adequate trust and addresses the important questions that people are wrestling with.  Therefore, we spend more energy building relationships and fostering a Gospel saturated community on campus.   We move out engaging the people around us lovingly, demonstrating the power of Christ actively and proclaiming the good news conversationally.  In our ministry at Cornell, we rely on our Community Groups to be our primary vehicle for evangelism and discipleship. 

But, that doesn't mean that we don't still get out and do a little "old school" evangelism anymore.  I believe that there is still a place for going out intentionally and starting conversations with people about our glorious God.  As a ministry, we want everyone on campus to hear the good news.  And since the day I got here, there have been at least a few students who wanted to get out every week and share their faith in this formal manner.  We don't necessarily use the booklets every time, but students do go out and intentionally start spiritual conversations with others.  To those who say that doesn't work anymore (especially at a place like Cornell) we simply point to student leaders like Kejing who came to know Christ in large part because of conversations started when some students went out sharing their faith one afternoon.  God works in all sorts of ways!

Over the years we've had "Thursday EV".  It's a pretty simple format.  A group of students will get together about dinner time and spend a few minutes praying and talking about the gospel.  Then they will pair up and head out either to dinner or to another place where students are hanging out and initiate a conversation or two about Jesus.  Then, if time permits, they'll come back together to pray and praise God for the opportunities he provided.

To me, one amazing thing about the "Thursday EV" on campus is the way that it has consistently been led by really quiet people.  You might think that this type of overt conversation starting would be a job for the gregarious, but unbelievably it's been just the opposite.  Over the years, the people who have faithfully carried the leadership mantle, organizing and carrying out these evangelistic efforts on campus each week have been incredibly introverted people.  Guys and girls who are naturally very quiet and reserved get together to proclaim the gospel.  In fact, I would say that the greatest benefit of this ministry outlet is the way it's enabled some of our most reticent students to step out with faith-filled boldness.

Among this years seniors who were a big part of the Thursday EV were Tom Rudelius as well as Albert Chen and  Andrew Ferguson.

Albert Chen actually came to Christ here with us during his freshman year.  Over the years he was a faithful part of our EvMOSGo team as well as our tech team.  In addition to leading out in evangelism, Albert helped our ministry get involved in community service projects like Cornell's "Into the Streets."

Albert is a man of genuine compassion and was a true 'behind the scenes' leader in our ministry.  Next year he'll be at University of Wisconsin Madison continuing his studies in microbiology.

Andrew Ferguson shared at our End of the Year Dessert, and his comments are posted below.
Andrew Ferguson on far right with fellow Cru Seniors Owen Amadasun, Kufre Inyang and Nelson Maldonado

I've been in Cru since my second semester of freshman year. Ever since I came, one of the biggest things that was emphasized was evangelism. At Cru I really gained an understanding of the importance of being missional and helping to lead others to Christ.  The very first time I ever did EV was my freshman year.   That night I was with Daniel Cox and Bezhad and being new to this I sat back and watched at first. Then for the next person we approached, I decided to give it a go and tell a bit about the gospel. At that point I realized that even though I grew up in a Christian home going to church every Sunday, I still wrestled with articulating the gospel clearly. Fortunately, it was late at night in College town and the fellow was drunk and so he may of not took to heart the misleading statements I made that night. 

Last year I started going to the Thursday EV and that really encouraged me in being more bold and realizing that EV is not as intimidating as it might seem. They introduced me to [some different tools] which I found to be a good initiator for gospel centered discussion that made it much less daunting for me since I was still a beginner. Doing EV with some of the guys like Nick, Kufre, Tom, and Regi has challenged me to grow in this area of my faith and it has encouraged me as I saw fruit from it. At  times, I was surprised by how God put words in my mouth while evangelizing to say things in ways I myself had never thought of. 

One time Bryan from the Korean Church and I did EV during Cru's Thursday EV  and we had a good conversation with an agnostic using the Perspective cards, however, it didn't end in any prayer of repentance and acceptance of Jesus so I forgot about it. A semester later I saw this person in one of the on campus prayer meetings and I talked to her and she told me that she had started going to a Chinese fellowship and that she has become more serious about her faith. That really encouraged me and helped me realize that although we can't always see how God is working in peoples hearts, we just need to be faithful laborers and sow the seeds of the gospel and water through prayer and leave God to perform the rest. 

(Mt 28:19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
-I want to encourage you to step out and EV.

(Mt 13:23) But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
-Inevitably, you will end up sowing on good ground and reaping a harvest.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tom EvMOSGo (Seniors 2012)

What does EvMOSGo mean?  Though it looks like a word created by my son Titus when he's pretending to send a text message, EvMOSGo is actually the name of one of our student ministry teams.  On campus, we have 4 leadership teams that take care of planning and executing most of our ministry activities.  (These teams operate in cooperation with our Community Groups)  The names pretty much describe what area the team leads in -Prayer, Web/Tech, Community, and EvMOSGo -which means Evangelism, Missions, Outreach, Service, Go!  Truly, the EvMOSGo team could actually be 5 teams, and most likely as we continue to grow, it will spiral out into more specialized leadership teams.  But for now it's a catch-all team that has consistently worked to keep our ministry focused on taking the gospel to the campus and the world.

Next year the EvMOSGo team will be filling in some big holes left by guys like Tom Rudelius.  Tom will be moving on to his next campus mission field; Harvard.  There he'll continue his studies in physics.

Tom gave his life to Jesus just a couple of years ago after his twin brother Steve prompted him to explore the claims of Christ.  Tom's journey to faith was somewhat dramatic as God used a State Department intern application and a series of 6 polygraph tests to help him see his sin with a clarity most of us will never get.  Taking the polygraph was an intense exercise in confession that God used to powerfully show Tom how much he needed grace; to convince him thoroughly that he was not the "good person" he imagined himself to be.  Exploring the gospel in conjunction with taking the polygraph tests was so transformative Tom practically recommends everybody try it.

Tom got to carry a flag for graduation
Tom loves the story of Zacheus in Luke 19 and includes it each time he shares his testimony.  Jesus' grace changed everything for Zacheus and his life did a 180.  Tom, like Zacheus immediately began living differently, expending himself to make right things that his sin had made wrong.
Two summers ago he also went on a Summer Project with Campus Crusade to Haiti where his heart for evangelism grew tremendously.  Over the past couple of years Tom has vehemently championed his class-mates to share their faith every week.

This summer Tom will spend some time in Africa distributing mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria.  After that he'll head to to Boston.

In addition to being a Physics genius, Tom loves sports.  He worked with the Intramural department throughout his time here at Cornell  Someday maybe he'll be a professional referee.....seriously.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Graduation Day(Seniors 2012)

Some of our Cru Seniors of 2012
A little over a week ago was Graduation day at Cornell University.  I have still never been to the commencement ceremonies -but I had wanted to go this year!  The class of 2012 was the first class that we got see go all the way through; in essence they were our senior class.  We only beat them here by a semester (we arrived at Cornell in January 2008) so they were the first group that we raised up.   Their passing marks the end of an era in a sense.

We got to host  a wonderful reception here at our house for students and their parents.  It was great to able to connect with a number of those students who we've been mentoring and ministering alongside for 4 years now.   So many of them are more than students involved in our ministry, but they are truly friends.  (in coming posts, I'd like to highlight a few more, but I'll mention a couple right now.)

Over the years, the senior I've been able to spend the most time with by far is Larry Lin.  Larry is more than a student leader, or even a co-laborer, but he's like family!  A couple of years ago, he actually got to spend Christmas with our family here in Ithaca.  We got to meet Larry's brothers and mom at our reception.

I still remember meeting Larry from San Jose (California) the first week of his freshman year.  We hung out and I was impressed right away by his conviction and his bold hilarious antics.  Shortly before coming to college he took a "senior road trip"with some high school buddies.  They had a ton of fun, but they also had purpose.  At various cities along the way they stopped and bought cases of water bottles.  Then, they would hang out on street corners in areas where there were lots of homeless people handing out the water to strangers and homeless people just to bless them in the name of Christ.  From the beginning I knew that we needed leaders like Larry in our budding movement - Jesus loving guys who had missional intentionality and a heart for fun!  During his first weeks of classes at Cornell, Larry started up a "name tag club" where he handed out name tags just to meet new people.  With only a little prodding, Larry came with us to the Upstate Fall Getaway in the fall of 2008 and he's been serving with Cru ever since.
One of my favorite couples int he world; Larry and Van-Kim
 Larry is going to intern with Campus Crusade's Epic ministry in Washington D.C. next year.  We really, really wanted him to stay here with us, but for a number of good reasons -mostly a really good girl actually Larry is going to serve with Cru in D.C.

We will miss Larry next year a lot.  Over the years Larry has given leadership to small groups, our large group meeting (called Real Life) our praise band and our whole ministry.  He's been an incredible role-model leading out in evangelism and missions as well as theological formation.

Bethany Nichols is another student who plugged in with Cru right from the beginning.  She'd been involved with Young Life in high school, so she came to college looking for a group of crazy Christians to hang out with.  Our ministry was much smaller back then, so there weren't too many girls around to give her a warm welcome, but lucky for all of us Bethany brings her own warm welcome wherever she goes!  She's literally one of the most outgoing, friendly people you could ever meet and she's been an incredible blessing to everyone in our ministry over the years.

The first week of school back in '08 we had set up a game of Ultimate Frisbee out in the grass on North campus just to meet new people.    It was a total bust!  It ended up being me, our intern staff member Ben Hutton and senior John Sullivan.....and Bethany!  She showed up, and rather than leaving and never coming to another Cru event again, she engaged with us, persevered thru the awkwardness and over the years helped make our movement what it is today.
Over the years Bethany has been able to love and pour into numerous younger girls.  She gave an incredible talk at our large group meeting a few weeks ago walking us the high times and the low times of her spiritual life at college.  It was a powerful presentation of the way God works to graciously love and sustain his children.  We were sincerely hoping Bethany would intern with us, but in the end things didn't work out because she was already set to serve for two years with Teach For America.  She'll be in New York City next fall blessing elementary school kids.

We also got the chance to meet Bethany's family which was a real privilege.

Bethany is currently dating one of our good friends Barrett Keene.  They are one of my other favorite couples in the world!