Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blessing with Bikes

The Wildwood summer project motto is "treasuring Jesus and making him known."  We want to be conduits of God's love and blessing in every way that we can while we are here this summer.  One creative approach we've decided to employ is free bike maintenance.   On Thursday nights, we provide free bike repair to anyone who needs it.
College students come from all over the world to work in Wildwood, NJ over the summer.  Because almost none of them have cars, many of them purchase used bicycles from local shops, craigslist and random neighborhood dealers.  Many of these bikes are pretty beat up!  The wheels are bent, the gears and brakes are a mess and you wouldn't believe how many bikes I've seen this summer that are missing bearings!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Bicycles.  (Just coming out here to Wildwood, I brought a bike for everyone in the family along with two child carrier trailers to tow behind our bikes!)  And most of the other staff here also have bikes and know how to work on them.  So we decided to buy a mechanic stand and each Thursday evening at our International cafe we set up shop at the end of the driveway and work on peoples bikes.  

We've advertised our services on our flyers, so plenty of kids show up with messed up bikes.  We'll line em up and get to work adjusting cables, pumping tires, fixing brakes and lubing chains.  While we work the students either hang out with us and chat or sit down in the back yard enjoying the snacks and meeting new friends.

There are a couple of things that I really like about this venture.  To start with, it's just a very simple way to serve others practically.  People's bikes are broken, their tires are flat and they need someone with tools to help them get back on the road.  And there we are.  Secondly, students come in with busted, struggling bikes and we bring a certain 'restoration' as we get things tuned up, unstuck and put back together.  And in that way, what we are doing with the bikes is really a picture of what I believe God is doing through this project all the way around.  He is using our group to teach and proclaim the good news of Jesus thereby ushering in life restoration to people who are broken and hurting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tyler Kelleher: Content in God

Tyler Kelleher enrolled in the Cornell vet school in the fall of 2010.  He did his undergad at UC Davis where he had been involved with Cru, and when he showed up to Ithaca he had just finished a Summer Project in South Africa.   Because of his experience in ministry he was able to jump right in to our movement and was a dedicated leader pretty much from day one.

Many grad students find it difficult to stay plugged in with campus fellowships, but Tyler was truly an exception.  He possessed a spiritual maturity that came from age and experience, but he operated with a vitality that made you think he was still an undergrad!   He was very involved in the leadership of small groups and he was a huge part of our praise band.

Tyler in Guatemala
"Authenticity" really became the theme of the evening at our senior share, and Tyler brought some powerful reflections to the table.

He titled his message "The sufficiency of Christ and displaying the gospel in singleness".  He opened up about what it looks like to cope with disappointment in relationships.  Basically, what do you do when you really want to be married and it just doesn't seem to be working out with anyone?   He talked about really finding your identity in Christ and and resting in His unconditional, overwhelming and profoundly sufficient love.

At the beginning of his talk, Tyler said candidly "I want to be married and I'm not afraid to admit it."  He talked about God's good and glorious design for marriage and expressed his plain desire to have a wife.  He went on to talk about how he had pursued relationships with Godly women over the years -in a way that was honorable and God-glorifying and yet nothing had panned out.  He talked about the discouragement that comes with growing older and seeing friends and even his younger brother get engaged and find a spouse. He talked openly about believing lies.  It's easy when things aren't going how we expected them to go for us to believe things that aren't true about God and about ourselves.  Tyler began wrestling with the idea that there was something wrong with him, and that God was holding out on him.  Ultimately he began to believe that he was "unlovable".

Tyler said "I Ultimately realized that I that was believing a lie which boiled down to 'I’m not lovable'.
That was nothing less than a Satanic lie. Yes, we are all messed up and in need of grace, that’s true, but the enemy wants you to believe that part without acknowledging the rest of the story, namely THE CROSS!!!
From Jesus’ work on the cross, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved.
Jesus was willing to endure the pain of being betrayed, scourged, mocked, and ultimately murdered for the sake of reconciling us and bringing us back to Himself to be with him forever"

After preaching the gospel and talking about his journey towards peace in the face of disappointment, Tyler went on to encourage everybody to maximize their singleness. He said "we shouldn’t be feeling unloved, discouraged or incomplete!  We should live in Christ every day -even doing things that might be harder to do once you are married!  

Throughout the years, I had the chance to talk with Tyler about relationships many times.  And I can personally testify to the way he consistently treated the women around him with respect and honor.  I've seen him grow tremendously in his faith as he believed God.  I know that God has a plan for him, and statistically speaking,  he will most likely get married some day.  But I can see clearly that God has a unique path for Tyler. Right now he's headed to California where he plans to work as a vet for a few years and then he wants to work somewhere overseas.  Tyler has a heart that is very missional and would like to work somewhere where he can make a significant difference.
Tyler provided leadership on our Guatemala Spring Break mission trips

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Senior's Hannah and David

As I've mentioned before; during our last large group meeting at Cornell each year we have our seniors share parting words of gospel informed wisdom and exhortation.  One of the reasons this is such a powerful time is because our leaders share with openness and authenticity.  In doing so, they set a powerful example and really bless their classmates and fellow leaders.

Hannah Weaver explained;
"A lot of times in Christian community, especially here at Cornell, we are afraid to share our struggles with others. Whether it is because we want to seem perfect, or we are afraid of being judged, we all at some point try to hide from revealing our sin. We think that only God needs to know about it and no one else does. However, it is this attitude that typically keeps us from truly repenting from sin and therefore from experiencing God's forgiveness through grace. The truth is we are sinful.  We are not perfect - only Christ was perfect. He died for us so that we can live for eternity with Him in Heaven."

Hannah is dating another Cru senior, David Kim.  During her share time, she talked about their relationship and courageously opened up about some of the ways they had really struggled as a couple to maintain sexual purity. She explained that it was only by opening up, sharing their struggle with friends and confessing sin to others that they were enabled to live differently and pursue holiness. 

David also shared at our meeting, talking mostly about his first couple of years at Cornell.  I met David his freshman year and invited him out to a small group Bible study that I was leading with Edgar Lei.  He did come out a few times and Edgar and I repeatedly encouraged  him to get plugged in with Christian community, but he just never really got involved.  David had grown up in a strong Christian home and church but it seemed like he was on the path to being one of those students who "fall away from the faith"  when they get to college.  I'd see him on campus and he'd show up to Church on Sundays, but he was always telling us he was too "busy" to get more involved.  

David was on the Cornell track team, and no doubt the course load at Cornell is arduous, but what David was really 'busy" doing was watching hours and hours of T.V!  Growing up, his family didn't have cable and he hadn't been allowed to watch a lot of television, so when he got to college, he decided to use his new found freedom to make up for lost time!  He shared with us a whole list of substandard dramas from the CW network that he dedicated his freshman year to.  It was downright hilarious and sad all at the same time. Consuming t.v. was the focus of his freshman year at Cornell, and even extended into the summer!

Ironically, it was the Jim Carey movie "Yes Man" that helped usher David to a new place spiritually.  In the movie, Jim Carey's character has his life altered simply by saying "yes" and making himself available to the opportunities that come his way.  David watched it over the summer and felt inspired to do something similar.  He pledged to say "yes" to more invitations in the fall.  Enter Mercy Gbenjo.  Mercy is one of our interns now, but back when she was a student she was also on the track team.  At the beginning of Dave's sophomore year she invited him to come out to our Fall Getaway, and he said 'yes.'  It was a half-hearted and reluctant 'yes', but by showing up to the getaway, the course of his college life changed.  

Dave encouraged everyone to remember what matters and to help each other to see and savor Jesus.  I am so grateful for both Hannah and David and really glad that by grace, Dave was rescued from wasting his life at Cornell!  Both of these guys were very dedicated leaders in Cru! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Jesus-Centered Driveway Party

Last night we hosted our second "International Cafe" here at the Wildwood Summer Project. I call it a Jesus-centered driveway party!   It's all hands on deck every Thursday evening as we light Tiki torches, set out extra tables, brew coffee, set up snacks and get a fire going in the backyard fire bowl.  Come 9:00pm we cue the music and people start showing up for a night of talking and hanging out.
Throughout the week we pass out flyers to any of the international students who we meet and just before the party begins, we walk up and down the surrounding streets inviting people over to hang out.  As the evening progresses, pretty much every person that passes by drops in for at least a few minutes and sometimes a few hours.

We host the cafe at the Project house where most of our students live.  The purpose of this event is to create a space where we can spend time with our new friends (mostly international students) who live and work in Wildwood.   We eat S'mores, sometimes play games, but mostly we talk about life and spiritual beliefs.

Our first week kicked off with way more people than we expected! We met students from Malaysia, Thailand, China, Ireland, Romania.....and a really fun pack of dudes from Poughkeepsie.....New York.   At one point I looked around and noticed that there were easily twice as many students I didn't know as those that I did.  Certainly more than 60 students came including a girl from Thailand named "Mint".

Mint walked up to one of our staff named Lauren and immediately asked her "Are you on staff with Cru?"  It was actually a pretty odd question since most of these students don't know anything about our ministry and really haven't ever heard of it before!  When Lauren explained that in fact she was on staff, Mint told her about how she had become a follower of Jesus recently after hearing the gospel from a student on a Cru missions trip to her campus in Thailand!  She said "I love Jesus Christ too.  I know the Gospel of God!"

As Lauren and Mint continued to talk, Mint expressed her heart to communicate the good news to the friends she is living and working with this summer.  Apparently Dunkin Donuts has 20 Thai students working for them here in Wildwood this summer!  (Between two locations)  That was an awesome meeting!

I agree with Lauren, who said later "What I felt while talking to Mint was inexpressible joy!  What an incredible gift to get to see the fruit of a ministry thousands of miles away!  And what an amazing reminder that wherever we are, God is at work, whether on a campus in Asia or on the Jersey Shore!

So not only are we ministering to and among international students, but we are literally co-laboring beside International students here in Wildwood!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Class quotes 2

Here are some more excerpts from our senior leaders.  The class of 2014. 

I've mentioned before, that Brian Green is notorious for helping people understand God's unconditional grace. One thing that enables him to convey the hugeness of God's love is his willingness to talk about his own sin and shortcomings. He definitely did that on senior share night -confessing sin and talking about the transforming benefits of life lived honestly before God and others. He ended with this.  

I'll sum up my call to vulnerability with my personal testimony. I grew up felt very sure that I was not good enough to be worthy of anyone's love, especially not God's love. "There is so much wrong with me, how could anyone love me for who I really am?" So I hid who I really was from everyone and never opened up. The most beautiful moment of my life was realizing that even though God knew exactly who I was, He loved me anyway and was willing to die for me so I could know Him, be fully known, and experience His love. So I go to God vulnerably, with all of my failings, knowing that He loves me completely. And I do the same with friends, family, coworkers -- everybody, knowing that God loves me for who I am right now and hoping that we can love each other the same way.

Caroline Emberton gave a well worded encouragement to get involved in various organizations on campus.  She pointed out how good it is for Christ following leaders to serve within campus organizations and not just sequester themselves.  

Being a leader in the community can help you grow in your faith because you can be challenged to really wrestle with and understand other people’s viewpoints and you get out of your comfort zone. One of the best lessons that I learned was that God does not expect you to be perfect, he just wants you to have the faith inspired courage to stand. Be willing to be that person to stand, and be a servant leader in communities that are completely out of your comfort zone.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Class quotes 1

Here are some more quotes from our Seniors of 2014.

Robin Ying "So I leave you with these final words which, even while living in the promise of grace and the hope of holiness, remind me daily of why we are here. We have all eternity to sing praise to God. We have all eternity to fellowship with one another. But we only have this lifetime to preach the Gospel! Let the Gospel transform you, that you may be made holy, set apart from the world so that this campus, too may be transformed."

(Robin will actually be staying at Cornell for another few years getting his PhD. I'm really glad that he'll be around!)

Lauren Lee We’ve talked a lot this year about the importance of community, and I’m not disputing the fact that having a strong Christian network is important,  but it doesn’t replace a real, sincere personal relationship with Jesus.

Nick Biebel If we graduate from Cornell but have not given God our all and loved those He’s placed in our life here, we missed out.  Don’t miss out.  Do Cornell differently.  It takes sacrifice and acknowledging our limits.  But it’s worth it.

Nick will be sticking around next year as an intern with us.

Kaytlin Fischer - "I think an important question to ask ourselves is, Am I content with my weaknesses? Not my sin or foolishness – we need to fight against those! But God shows us in 2 Corinthians 12 that He has given us these weaknesses for our joy.  The more aware we are of God’s grace, the more humble, prayerful, joyful, etc. we will be. And we are more aware of God’s grace when we are weak. So we can thank God for the weaknesses He has blessed us with!! Because He gives them to us so we can more fully experience the joy He has for us. When we are weak, God’s strength is more displayed in our lives."