Walking the trail
One step followed by another. Crunching along the gravel trail as the morning mists dissipate. Moisture dripping from trees. Mounds of acorns and hazelnuts lining the trail. Cafe con leche in a trailside restaurant. Shadowing dairy cattle as they move from their milking barns to the fields. Sore knees. Blisters. Trailside shrines to lost loved ones. Fellow pilgrims from all over the world. Pilgrims walking to forget. Pilgrims walking to remember. Pilgrims walking and hoping to connect with God. Pilgrims walking in hopes there is a God. Pilgrims walking who don’t believe in God, but who are drawn to this place for some mysterious reason that they cannot put a finger on. Maybe it’s God?
There’s simply no place like the Camino de Santiago. I believe it’s a “thin place,” a spot in the world where the eternal is somehow present in an authentic sense to our temporal hearts. We will go back – maybe you should consider joining us next year!
This week Dawn and I and several friends are walking the ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, or “the way of Saint James.” We’re following signs like the one pictured to the right and enjoying the beauty of northern Spain as we walk the 70 miles to the cathedral in Santiago.
Pilgrims have been following this trail for over 1,000 years. It’s a “thin place” where the spiritual world and the temporal world are somehow closer together. We are excited to make this walk again.
Maybe next year some of you will join us?
This week I’m at Cru’s World Stint Briefing in Chicago. We’re training and preparing close to 500 missionaries who will leave here in a few days to go throughout the world to reach students this next year. Many will go to difficult, hard-to-reach places. Most will be challenged by living in a foreign culture and being away from home this next year. All will return with fresh eyes for how God works and how God is moving among young people the world over.
We often hear in our world about something “changing everything,” which many times is no more than an advertising slogan. However, when one of these young people brings the message of the gospel to another young person who’s never heard the good news, then truly everything in their life begins to change. Hope replaces despair. Meaning replaces loss. God enters a life. The world changes, one person at a time.
Would you take a minute a pray for these fresh missionaries? Our prayers help pave the way for the conversations they will be having this year and, through our prayers, we get to join with them in changing the world.
Every year Open Doors USA publishes their annual World Watch List documenting the countries in the world where Christians are most violently persecuted. While it can be difficult to live as a follower of Christ anywhere on the planet, in these countries it could cost you your life and the threat is not subsiding.
Here’s the top 10 list, all places where Christians face extreme persecution:
- North Korea
Will you join me in praying for the followers of Christ who are trying to survive amidst the persecution in the countries? Also, please join me in praying for the true conversion, the heart change and the discovery of hope for the millions of people living in these places who would come to faith in Jesus if just given the opportunity.
Lenin making a point among the old communist statues in Memento Park, Budapest Hungary.
May the first, Labor Day in many parts of the world, has also long been celebrated as a holiday among communist countries. “Workers of the World Unite!” is the common refrain. I’ve had the privilege of visiting various communist countries in my years working with Cru. First was Romania in 1983 as a college student, then to Hungary before the wall fell. I’ve also visited China in recent years. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the changes in Eastern Europe, almost half the world lived under a communist form of government.
Today much of that has changed. I remember walking around Budapest while the country was still under communist rule and looking at the various statues that glorified communism in Hungary. After the abandonment of communism in 1989, the Hungarian people began taking down these statues. Instead of destroying then, however, the Hungarians created a park near Budapest to display this part of their history. Called Memento Park, visitors can stroll through the grounds and observe the same statues I saw on the streets years ago.
A quote by Ákos Eleőd, the architect overseeing the project, gives insight into why the park was built: This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.
Today is a day the rest of world celebrates those who labor, just as Americans do each September. Today is also a day when the few remaining communist nations celebrate their power and might with military parades and shows of force. And, today is a day when free peoples in countries formerly run by dictators can look back on their past. Finally, as followers of Jesus, today is a day we can give thought to where true freedom resides and cannot be taken away by governments or dictators.
A man who stared down kings, survived stonings and shipwrecks, healed the sick and shook off the venom of poisonous vipers – what’s not to love about Paul? I just read this book for a course I’m taking on Acts and the Pauline Epistles. I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Swindoll’s thoughts on the life and ministry of Paul. It’s been I long time since I’ve read a book by Swindoll and I was quickly reminded of his humor, insights and his practicality of application, especially for those in ministry.
In the first chapter I was struck by Swindoll’s description of Saul as a “religious terrorist.” Swindoll goes on to say “That’s why there’s nothing more frightening, more vicious than a religious terrorist. What they do, they justify in the name of God.” Since this book was published, we’ve seen ever-increasing evidence of that reality. Which make me wonder, is there another Paul out there, currently committed to Islamic terrorism, who will become the great missionary of tomorrow? I hope and pray so. Perhaps even on the road to Damascus a similar miracle could occur?
Two thoughts kept circling around in my mind as I read this book and as I jotted down notable passages on the way through. First, this life of adventure lived by Paul. His was no boring, cloistered life of ministry. He was fully engaged and ever pushing on to new arenas. Fearless comes to mind. A second thought emerged as I found my way to the final few chapters; a theme that I’ve been weighing personally for the last year or so, and the life of Paul demonstrates it so well. That is, our need for longevity in ministry, or finishing well with the Lord, or keeping the faith until the end of life. My life, in particular.
I loved the book. So much so I ordered another book in the series. I’m challenged to push forward in my work in missions despite the daily obstacles. I encouraged to continue to pursue depth in life and in the Lord. Finally, I’m inspired to end strong and finish the race in a manner of which Paul would approve.
Marker outside of St Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin where Patrick baptized some of the first Irish converts to the Christian faith.
St Patrick’s Day has become a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all things Irish and a good excuse to drink green beer, not something one can do everyday. But did you know that Patrick of Ireland is one of history’s great missionaries? Patrick was the first known missionary to carry the gospel outside the bounds of the Roman Empire. He returned to the people who had enslaved him as a young man, those pagan Irish, because God appeared to him in a vision and sent him back.
Patrick evangelized the entire island, stopping only when he reached the west coast of Ireland. He would have kept going if he could have walked on water and there were Irish in the sea!
This Friday, March 17, join me in celebrating St Patrick’s day. Celebrate all things Irish, but let’s also celebrate the cause of missions around the world and the many young people who are following in Patrick’s footsteps today.
Dawn and I will once again be leading a trip with Cru Global Missions to walk the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain this coming fall (September 23 – October 2, 2017). This will be a week of reflection and renewal on the pilgrimage route traveled by followers of Jesus for a thousand years. We’re super excited to go again and take folks with us, especially as we learned so much on the Camino last year.
If you’re interested in joining us, please let me know and I can send you more info. Spots are limited. But so are the opportunities in life to follow in the paths of fellow pilgrims and experience “walking with Jesus” in a new and powerful way!
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is our holiday reserved to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., commonly referred to as MLK day. I made it a point several years ago to start reading about the life and work of Dr. King. On this day I can say that Martin Luther King is one of my leadership heroes. Rarely will you see a leader so given to his ideals and so committed to his methods. King’s commitment to nonviolence endured despite being spit upon, hit in the head with bricks and constantly threatened. Martin Luther King is an American hero and a wonderful example of a leader who put his Christian faith into practice.
I would encourage you to read more about Dr. King and a good place to start is with his autobiography, pictured here. If you’ve not read it before, I would suggest you add it to your booklist for the year. You’ll be impressed and encouraged and thankful for this man who has blessed our times.
You can see that on my desk is a copy of a new book on missions by my friend and co-worker, Shane Sebastian. This Change is Everything is the best new book to come out regarding missions since, well, my book that came out last year regarding missions!
There are two aspects to this book that make it important to anyone considering missions and to anyone working with young people who are considering missions. First, Shane helps us see how young people have been changing the world for centuries. Young people, mid-twenties and younger, have been making a kingdom impact since the days of the Old Testament. Why should it be any different today? We need to encourage people to see how much of a difference they can make in their youth.
In the second part of the book Shane deals with common barriers people face as they consider going to the world. These thoughts are spot-on, as Shane has been working with college students for twenty-five years and helping them work through these very issues. His wisdom comes from years of practical ministry. You will benefit from the hard lessons Shane has distilled for you.
Buy this book for yourself, or buy it to give away, but read it and and let’s help send a new generation to the world!