Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Right In Our Own Back Yard!"

Two of our kids were downstairs riding skateboards and the rest of us were in our apartment when after a quick rap on the door, a girl from China walks right into our house with a confident "hello."  It's 9:15 in the morning, and  even though we have never met, she's standing in our entry way, exclaiming at the cuteness of Juniper and wandering down the hallway to the living room! 

"Hello!"  I greet her back.  We all introduced ourselves and began to talk about apartments for rent in the area.  I ended up walking around the neighborhood and helping her and her friends find some living accommodations for the summer.

It's not that that was a daily occurrence by any means, but I tell you that story to highlight just how involved we are with the international student population in Wildwood!  The students are everywhere -even walking right into our living room!  
So often it's merely sentiment to say "there are people from all over the world right in our back yard." But on the Wildwood Summer Project, it's actual fact!   Throughout the week and with increasing frequency we and our students hang out in the backyard of the project house talking with new friends from all over the world.

I was hanging out one night talking with a guy named Alex from Romania along with a couple of other guys including a guy I'll call "G" from China.  We were talking about original sin and I was explaining the Adam and Eve story which was actually brand new to "G."   Alex, had grown up around the Eastern Orthodox tradition, so he was at least familiar with the narrative.  As we talked about the effects of the fall in the world and in our lives Alex exclaimed grievously "Awww Adam!  Why did you eat that F****** apple!?"  (I think he speaks for all of us.)  As we went on, I was explaining that Jesus is the only one who has ever lived a perfect and sinless life.  So that the gospel was not confused as being simply another moralistic tale, I told some other stories from the Bible, explaining that all of the characters in the Bible are actually sinful, fallen human beings, and only the God in the flesh, Jesus can save us.  As I told different stories, I dialed em up using BibleGateway on my iPhone.
It was a great conversation and everyone was really engaged.  "G" said, "I am really interested in the Bible right now!"  I explained that he could read the whole thing online in his own language!  He said, "yah, but how long would that take?"  I said "Probably a couple of months."  He said  "Don't they have a movie or something?"  I said "well, actually...yah.  They kind of do!  Just this past year the History Channel made a movie!"  I said "I'll buy it and how bout next Thursday we can start watching it!"

Here's what's cool.  "G" actually went home and downloaded the full miniseries on his computer!  But then, someone stole his laptop!!  NOOOOOO!  But he came out on Thursday, and towards the end of our International Cafe, we set up a screen right in the driveway and about 10-15 of us watched the first episode of the Bible movie.  

There were guys literally getting their first exposure to the Biblical narrative!  And they were into it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

F.A.T. Volunteer

F.A.T. stands for Faithful, Available, and Teachable.  Dan Seo is definitely FAT!

The truth is, Dan Seo wasn't planning on staying at Cornell for a whole semester after he finished school, but thankfully God was!  Dan rocked out his Electrical/Computer Engineering degree in just 3 1/2 years and was dutifully applying for jobs throughout the fall of '13 but nothing panned out!  Dan had seriously considered staying at Cornell and volunteering alongside our interns, but in the end he and his family had decided it would be best if he went straight into engineering.  BUT, surprisingly, he just wasn't getting the offers!  The situation was actually very stressful.  Dan is certainly capable and qualified, but the discouragement compounded each time he would do an interview and fill out an application only to be passed over.  And not only was Dan himself getting unnerved, but his father and mother were increasingly distressed which put a lot of pressure on him. When January of 2014 arrived, Dan decided that -without another job available, he would hang out in Ithaca for the semester, and spend time serving our ministry with his free time.  

Dan was able to have a God-centered perspective on it all.  Relaying his experience to our movement he said; "I ended up without a job and I like to think that it was by God’s grace that I didn’t get a job [last semester]."  It's been a faith challenge for sure, but those of us who have been involved can affirm that Dan has fought hard to believe truth in the face of adversity. (In fact, at the time of this writing, Dan is still applying for jobs, and is even now trusting God even with the future so uncertain and out of his control.)

As a student Dan was a real servant leader who was a big part of leading Community Groups in Collegetown.  Dan also acted as the functional "secretary" of our ministry, helping to ensure that notes were taken at every one of our leadership meetings and typing up 'minutes.'  He would typically post the minutes right after the meeting thereby enabling anyone who was unable to attend to "catch up" on all the stories and business that had been covered.  Numerous leaders benefited from that contribution!  Doing that, also enables us as staff to look back on over 2 years of leadership meetings to keep track of what we have covered in the past and help us be more effective going forward.  As a volunteer, Dan was able to keep doing those things and even more.  

Dan's friends would tell you that he is truly one of the most disciplined and organized people they have ever met.  I knew that his strengths would be a wonderful compliment to our staff team.  Explaining his experience working with us he said  "I don’t think J, Will, or Mercy will take offense when I say they are not logistical/administrative masters or necessarily detail driven. They just weren't made to be people sitting in front of a computer screen typing all day....or to discuss logistics for hours on end.  Instead they... communicate, direction set, build relationships with people, teach and lead.   But me, with my personality and disposition, I’m an organizer!  I like figuring out logistics, planning and thinking about the details."
Especially as we organized and orchestrated the logistics and finances of our 3 spring break trips, Dan and his spreadsheets enabled us to send students to New York City, Guatamala City and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And because he didn't have any coursework on his plate, Dan was able to be very available to fill in holes and help with almost anything at all! And it certainly wasn't all business! We enjoyed his company and appreciated his friendship.

I will say that for my part, I was extremely grateful that Dan was able to stay with us!  And I know that the rest of our staff team loved it as well! He certainly finished his time here at Cornell in a way that was definitively non-traditional, but it was so, so helpful.  (In fact, I truly hope that others will follow his example and do the same in years to come!)  Sharing at our last weekly meeting, in his matter of fact way,  he encouraged others to consider staying as an intern or volunteer staff. 

"I wouldn’t ever want people that serve as a volunteer staff, much less intern, to have not thought this over. [Going to] work immediately, taking a vacation, a celebratory trip somewhere fun, or just bumming around and relaxing (after graduation).....none of those are the wrong choice to make.

But I do believe there might be a better choice. Like a lot of thing Cru advocates, Fall Getaways, Summer Projects to name a couple, it may not always, in every situation be the best move, like when you need to be studying or working at a job, but like a lot of thing Cru advocates, staying and serving is something you will not regret doing. For me, it's been a blessing and helpful in my walk, and I hope that makes staying a bit more appealing."