Wednesday, August 24 was Cindy’s 60th birthday! We had a pizza party in Sherman, TX with friends from church just before the Wednesday evening service, and met some friends for an outdoor concert in Anna, Friday evening.
In a lovely glass chapel in an Ozark Mountain forest near the city of Eureka Springs, Luke and his fiancée Lilian France were married on August 13! Almost all of Cindy’s side of the family were able to attend. We’d ask that you please pray for Luke: he had an engineering internship this summer at a local company, and began feeling severe pain in all his joints. We’re praying we can get a certain diagnosis and a clear course of action.
From July 16-23, we attended Cru’s National Staff Conference: this time it was held in Milwaukee after being held in Colorado for decades. Cru skipped a year due to COVID-19 restrictions. The last conference was after Luke’s senior year of high school in 2019.
It was great to see some staff friends from Florida, although we missed a few due to the massive crowds. It felt like the end of an era, as we looked back on what a blessing it was for our children to be able to grow up attending the conference in the mountains of Colorado.
There must have been cooling of the long-time relationship with Colorado State University, probably a symptom of the problems facing Campus ministries all over the nation. Intervarsity Fellowship was “derecognized” at CSU, just as Cru has been at all California State campuses. That means no on-campus meeting space will be provided (renting space goes from free, on-campus to off-campus and very expensive) and no representation is allowed at official college events. The way to remain qualified in many public university settings is to allow non-believers to have full voting membership and even hold office. The speed of social change and loss of freedoms for the past five years, has been astounding, especially on many college campuses.
I think the environment of social change is also part of why we didn’t have outside speakers this time. Main session leaders were either our own ministry leaders, Cru board members or affiliate staff members. The conference’s theme was “Unity”, and my sense was that at a time like this, communicating clearly and directly is of the utmost importance. Unity is indeed a vital discipline for God’s people at this highly fractured time.
I’m reading through the book of Ephesians right now, and it proclaims a salvation by grace that unites us to one another and gives a unified message, if we put off the old man with its corrupting talk, bitterness, wrath, anger and clamor, and put on the new self with the kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness for one another that God showed in Christ Jesus when He forgave us. There can be no real unity without truth; but if believers don’t have real unity, the watching world doesn’t see the most important truth we have to share. (John 17:23)
In one of our seminars called “Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing without Dividing,” two Biola professors gave us some helpful techniques to communicate to today’s easily-offended world. Both are long-time staff members who are now associate staff, and reminded us what an amazing, God-borne organization we’ve given our lives to serve in. Cru has had an unparalleled impact in its 70 years of existence. For each generation, there are new communication challenges, and if Cru fails to meet today’s challenges, either because of internal disunity or distraction, or due to adding unnecessary personal offense to the inevitable offense of the cross, it will be tragic.
In the main sessions, we sometimes hear inspiring stories about other staff members working in other nations. One such story was told by a young man sitting in the crowd. When the interviewer introduced him by name, I thought I recognized it. When he told his story, I was certain that he was someone I had trained: as a child, he fled from a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, walking hundreds of miles with his family through war zones and famine while living on God’s miraculous provision until they settled in Zimbabwe. Now a leader in Cru’s Digital Strategies division, he sends a devotional to over 2,500 recipients each day. He sent one that quoted Ecclesiastes 9:4: “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” A young woman told him she’d been about to take her own life when took that as God’s direction to put down the pills she was about to swallow in her suicide attempt.
Ten years ago, when I was training individual Online Missionaries, I made a habit of reading their testimonies and praying for them. I was especially struck when I saw Kelly’s. It was a privilege to train him in 2012, and it was an affirmation from the Lord to me to see him in person, addressing the crowd of thousands of Cru staff members in Milwaukee about his passion to make Jesus and His mission accessible to everyone, anywhere, all the time.
Another important moment for Cindy and me in Milwaukee last month was Colleen Fraser’s seminar on praying for revival. Her challenge confirms something I’ve been sensing: that the pandemic and upheaval we’ve gone through is meant as, and can be, a gift, to make us dissatisfied with ourselves, to erode trust in the idols so many of us have become content with. “As long as we’re content to live without revival, we will,” as she put it.
Living without revival in the future won’t look like the self-satisfied past. If we can be so easily excluded from the places where ideas are supposed to be freely shared with future leaders, if people wishing to preach about God’s love and the hope He offers are dismissed before being heard as radical and hate-filled, we’re heading for a far darker America than we’ve lived through. We must all make revival, both personal and national (and international) a priority.
Thank you for your prayers and gifts that make it possible for us to serve! The very fact that we continue to do so full-time is evidence of the priority you make of God’s Kingdom! May He continue to bless you and make you fruitful in your life and service!
Love, in Christ,
One Day Closer!