Friday, January 22, 2016

Honorable Service

Jake graduated from Cornell this past May and enlisted in the U.S. Army.  I met Jake providentially in a north campus dining hall during the first weeks of his freshman year. Throughout his time at Cornell  I had the joy filled privilege of mentoring and serving beside him on campus.  Jake was more than a student leader in our ministry, he is truly a brother.  
Two days after he got out of basic training, Jake sent me a very encouraging Facebook message telling me about the ways that God had worked throughout his time in "boot camp." When Jake's time in basic training was over, 17 people in his unit had professed faith in Jesus and been baptized!  
I couldn't believe it! I didn't even know there was enough time to have spiritual discussions during boot camp! But Jake told me that the Basic training environment actually fosters many conversations about life and purpose and meaning and things like that. By being intentional, he said it was relatively easy to talk about Jesus there. He also said:

"Learning how to have those conversations at Cornell and in Cru was crucial....  Especially the stuff we learned on summer project.  [I was] so much more effective at communicating the gospel to these guys and it made a difference."

We truly praise God for the ways that He is already using Jake to bless others in the military. The vision of Cru has always been to train Christ-centered laborers on campus who can continue to share the gospel with the world outside of the campus!  It is very encouraging to know that Jake's time here in Cru at Cornell helped prepare him to live missionally in the Army.  

Between his junior and senior year Jake joined a group of Cornell and Yale students for 6 weeks of outreach on the other side of the globe.  Jake notoriously embraced the difficulty of the cross-cultural environment and expended himself to make friendships and spread the love of Jesus. He wrote: "Summer project was key for that spiritual maturity and missional mindset and development!" Especially because I regard cross-cultural summer mission's so highly, I am thankful for the way that Jake credits his Cru summer experience with helping him to grow as an ambassador for Christ. Jake benefited tremendously from the training and the teaching as well as the community and the brotherhood he experienced here in our movement.

And that leads me to something else I want to point out for our mutual edification. We know that God works through his people in community. Helping people to know and follow Christ during boot camp was certainly not something Jake did on his own and he would definitely not want me to tell this story in a way that made him seem like it was all on him alone. The truth is that Jesus was lifted up, and people were able to put their faith in Christ because a small group of committed Christ followers were working together! God in his sovereign goodness had placed a handful of Christians in Jake's training unit! And as a group, they were able to spread the love of God and point others to Jesus effectively.   

I believe that Jake's boot camp experience was extraordinary in the truest sense of the word -it was not ordinary! It does seem that the basic training environment is a place where people are processing the important questions of life. Therefore it can be a phenomenal place to explain the gospel to people! But at the end of the day I believe that God honored the faith and zeal of Jake and the other Christ followers in his class. I believe that God brought together the small group of Christians, and He united them into the missional community that they became during those weeks.  

Jake joined the army to serve his country and his fellow man, but above all, his desire is to Glorify God. Generally speaking, the U.S. Army doesn't harp a lot "spiritual well being", but through leaders like Jake, I believe many soldiers will be at least exposed to the power of the gospel.

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