I don’t believe in serendipity.

It was a hot July day, and Brooke and I had been walking around Charlestown for enough time that we were starting to sweat. Going inside a coffee shop or a store was starting to seem more and more appealing.

When Brooke saw a sign in a window for a sale on accessories at a store called Haven, we decided to duck in and have a look. The word “sale” and the prospect of AC have an alluring quality at 3:30pm in July.

As we stepped into the store, a woman at a computer in the back waved to us and said hello. She started asking us about ourselves and telling us about her store, Haven.

We learned that the woman’s name was Lindsay, and she had self-started and run a design company called Lindsay Hill Design for some time. She had started a retail shop on the side some years after that, just for fun. She was busy that day, but told us that she would love for us to come back another time and she could talk more. It was just that soon she would be moving her entire store to another part of Charlestown, and everything was hectic because of the move.

An idea started to form in my mind.

“We are actually in Charlestown for the summer, looking for ways to learn about the community and serve the people here. Maybe, if you needed it, we could help you with some of your move?”

“Seriously?” Lindsay looked skeptical, but also thrilled.

It turned out she needed the help, and we needed some more to do in the community in the upcoming weeks. Brooke and I tentatively planned with Lindsay three days that our team would give her our time and assistance, and said goodbye.

Over the next few weeks, our team helped Lindsay move most of her retail, office supplies, and furniture from one side of Charlestown to the other. As a team, we did things like lift heavy furniture and boxes, run side-walk sales, and place items on Ebay. We cleaned bathrooms, installed shelving, and printed labels. We worked our best to meet every need we could on the days we helped Lindsay. (And Lindsay, because she is fabulous, bought us lunch every single time we helped out.)

We were able to develop friendships with Lindsay and her interns, as well as some other people, through helping her move. We were able to share with many people our purpose in Charlestown and our motivation for being here this summer.

It would be easy to say that chance, or serendipity, brought us to Lindsay and her to us.

But I think that wouldn’t be the truth. At the very least, it wouldn’t be the full story.

One of the things I’ve gotten to learn over and over again this summer is that God is always working. He’s working all day, every day, to bring Himself glory and to save those who are lost. And He accomplishes His work through every-day people like our team, like me, like anyone reading this. God uses us.

And I believe that God brought us to Lindsay so that we could help her out a bit, so that she could provide us with some tangible tasks to accomplish (which can be infinitely encouraging at times), and so that we could hopefully share a little bit of the Gospel with her through our time together this summer.

Now this summer – it’s been difficult, at times. It’s been a challenge for all of us here, I know. But the most best amazingly beautiful thing is that I believe this summer has been worth it. Making no money this summer has been worth it. Coming and staying in a college dorm with strangers in order to go as strangers into new communities with the goals of making friends, serving people, and sharing the Gospel has been worth it, and will continue to be worth it.

It’s worth it because of what I (we) believe. I believe that Jesus Christ really came to earth, lived His whole perfect life here, died on the cross for the sins of the entire world (yours and mine included) and rose again three days later. I believe that eternal life and saving grace are found in that story of Jesus. And I believe that sharing that story with everyone around me is of the utmost importance.

I wouldn’t be here this summer if I didn’t believe that, and neither would the team.

And God has faithfully put in our path people to serve. Some of them, we’ve served in quantifiable ways – like Lindsay. Some of them were people who just needed a friend. Some of them needed (and need) prayer. And this summer, we’ve been available. We’ve been available to help those who have needed it, and we’ve had the time to share the love of Christ with all of the people God has placed in front of us through our actions and our words.

So, that’s why I don’t believe in serendipity – I believe in Jesus Christ, instead.

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Here are just a few shots of us helping at Lindsay’s new location.

Check out Lindsay Hill Design and Haven with these links!

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Popularity // Gospel

It can be so difficult, awkward, and discouraging to bring up Jesus in conversation with strangers.

Especially for a people-pleaser (raises hand) it isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

And usually, there are plenty of other things to be talked about. I have classes, my friends, that movie that just came out, that new restaurant near campus…. all sorts of really great conversation starters that don’t make anyone squirm or want escape.

This summer, though, my entire purpose in this city revolves around me serving a community and sharing the Gospel with the people I meet while here. The answer to many run-of-the-mill small talk questions is, “Jesus” or some variation of the Gospel.

Questions like, “Why are you in Boston for the summer?”

“What sort of job do you have?”

“What made you want to come do this kind of trip?”

All of these questions point me straight back to Jesus. On the easy days, I smile and thank God for this easy “in” to a Gospel conversation. On the hard days, my stomach squirms a little and I dive into the conversation like a kid who can’t swim jumping into water – if I just rush in, I won’t think about my fear – or the reaction of the person with whom I’m speaking.

Some days, those scary conversations are fantastic. People open up their thoughts on religion and the influence that it has had on their lives. People ask for and accept prayer. People want to talk about why I want to follow Jesus until the day I die. But other days, people shut down. Their perception of me changes from “normal college student” to “strange religious traveler” or “young confused idealist” in an instant. All of a sudden, someone who related to me quite well thirty seconds ago is convinced that the two of us have nothing in common.

And it’s crazy how just a few discouraging experiences can turn my whole attitude upside down. Suddenly, my faith is 1/10000000 of a mustard seed big. My confidence in Christ and in the Holy Spirit seems to magically vanish. In a flash, I don’t seem to believe that God can use me at all.

The past week, God has totally been convicting me about my attitude and my faith.

He’s been reminding me that He does amazing things. In the Bible, in the lives of others, and in my own life, I can see the crazy awesome works of the Lord.

God has also been reminding me that there are so many people who endure so much more for the sake of the Gospel than some failed conversations and embarrassing situations – people like Jeremiah the prophet.

The summary-blurb at the beginning of the book of Jeremiah in my Bible says, “Jeremiah led an emotionally tortured life, yet remained steadfastly faithful to God and the call to deliver His message.”

In Jeremiah chapter 1, God calls to Jeremiah, saying, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah kind of freaks. He says to God, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

To which the Lord replies, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ (Basically, ‘hush up Jeremiah and listen’.) You must go to everyone I sent you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue You.”

In Jeremiah chapter 7, verse 27, the Lord basically says to Jeremiah, “When you tell them (your listeners) all this (God’s words to Jeremiah), they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.”

So, Jeremiah, who led an “emotionally tortured life” was chosen by God and told by God that his audience would not listen to him.

And still God said, “Go.”

Unlike Jeremiah, I’m not promised that I’ll be unheard. I’m not promised that the hearts of those to whom I bring the message of Jesus will all be hardened. And so far, no one could describe my life as being “emotionally tortured.”

There are Christians all over the world who are tortured (emotionally and physically), and even killed for their faith. There are people in the Bible who followed God faithfully for years, even for lifetimes, who never got to see the fruits of their faithfulness. Those people all have/had faith that I cannot even understand.

And I’ve been thinking about how if all it takes is an awkward conversation to discourage me from talking about God’s saving message of salvation to the world, then my impact for the Kingdom of Christ is going to be extremely limited.

And that’s not what I want at all.

Please pray with me. Pray that I and the 29 other college students living with me in Boston this summer will be bold in our conversations about Jesus. Pray that we will be on fire for the Gospel and for the lost people in this city. Pray that we will remember that our emotions are not indicative of our effectiveness for God’s Kingdom. Pray that God will use us to do “immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.”

So Many Things.

Usually, when I sit down to write, I know exactly what I want to communicate before I start typing. This time, though, I’m not really sure. So many things have happened here in Boston. I’ve learned so many lessons, and made so many friends. I’ve been humbled, I’ve been encouraged, and I’ve thanked God for letting me be a student missionary this summer with these incredible people who want to follow the Lord so much.

Every morning, some of us get up and pray together before we start our day. We pray for the city of Boston. We pray for each other, for the other Christians in the city, and for the lost who don’t know Jesus. We pray that the Lord’s will be done on earth, in every country, in every city, in every neighborhood.

It’s an extremely encouraging time for me. There’s something peaceful and powerful about a group of people gathering together before the day has started to encourage each other and speak with the Lord.

Our prayer time also encourages me for another reason – it provides some structure before we begin our day.

One of the biggest struggles for a lot of our team, definitely including me, has been the freedom (and consequential lack of structure) that we have every day.

In Spiderman, Uncle Ben tells Peter with his dying breath, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I think that the word “power” can be exchanged for the word “freedom” quite easily there. The more freedom we are given while in Boston, the more opportunities we have to choose. How are we going to use that freedom on a day to day basis? Are we going to maximize our flexibility to make new friends, learn about our community, and talk about Jesus? Or, are we going to hang out with our friends on our team, sit around quietly and aimlessly in coffee shops, and keep to ourselves?

Every day, we get to choose. No one is mandating our quiet times. No one is counting how many times we try to talk to someone about Jesus. We have great freedom.

We also get to have some responsibility. We are responsible for whether or not we decide to speak to people we’ve never met. We are responsible for how we choose to engage with people in Charlestown and in Boston. Will we talk about Jesus, or not? Will we look for ways to serve those around us in action and word, or not?

And when I think about it, that’s the kind of freedom we have in every day life. In college, we choose every day whether or not we want to share our faith with those around us. We choose our friends, and we choose what we talk about with those friends.

One day, when we are out of school (or maybe when we go on to more school), we are going to get to do the same thing there – with much less Christian accountability than we have this summer, and maybe less than we are blessed to have in college. And in the future, will we choose to use our freedom for the glory of God? Will we start conversations about Him? Will we leverage our careers, our plans, our lives for His glory, when we have the freedom to do whatever we choose – when no one is watching?

I think that’s what we are getting to find out this summer. I know that’s something I’m learning. Do I care more about the opinions the people I meet in this city have of me, or their salvation? It’s a sobering question. Right now, at the end of the day, I have people around me who love Jesus and who love me enough to keep me accountable. But if I’m struggling now, how much more will I struggle when my support group is spread out across a city, a state or a country, and I’m trying to balance work and church and maybe more?

This summer, we are getting to take a look at the balance of freedom and responsibility. We are getting to take long, hard looks at our priorities. And we are getting to see how, when we choose to leverage our reputations and our interactions for the glory of God, He will use us to do great things for His Kingdom.

Humble Pie.

Today marks the team’s first week in Boston, and I could probably write ten posts about all that they’ve done, how much they’ve encouraged me, and everything God’s been teaching me through them. However, I’m going to limit myself to just one for now.

I want to write about humility.

God’s been showing me how humble I am not. Even in this one week, He’s shown me that only a tyrant holds onto a leadership position with a viselike grip, and only a fool mopes when a good idea isn’t hers. I’m learning that that at times I’m both a tyrant and a fool.

Now, it’s been incredible to see how much more can get done with eight people than with one. It’s been exciting to see how the Lord has made every person on this team so different, with incredibly unique strengths and weaknesses. Already, these seven other Christ-followers are seeing needs and meeting needs in Charlestown that I couldn’t and didn’t recognize in my four weeks of being here.

It’s incredible, it’s exciting, and it’s all Jesus. This is what I know.

But then… deep inside, I can hear a little voice saying things. The voice says things like, “Becca, you’ve been here four weeks longer than everyone else – and you didn’t even notice that blatant need in this community? You are obviously worthless.” It tells me, “No. Don’t be happy for your team’s growth and accomplishments through Jesus. Make them listen to everything you’ve done, how hard you’ve been working. You deserve the glory – not them, and not Jesus.” The voice says, “This trip is about you proving yourself as a leader, and you shouldn’t let anyone forget that they have to follow you.”

The worst part is that try as I might, I can’t do anything on my own to stop these thoughts. This voice is a problem, but it’s a problem that’s made me realize a few things:

  1. I am full of pride, and I constantly want to steal glory from my God.
  2. I cannot make myself be anything other than a sinner. I cannot wish humility upon myself.
  3. God wants to use me, even in the midst of my selfishness and sin.
  4. No sin is too big for God’s redemption.

I’m learning that all I can do is rely on Jesus – something I thought I already knew.

At times it can seem like my pride and selfishness are too great for even God to conquer. My sin can seem hopeless – but it isn’t. Nothing, not even my big head, is too big of a problem for God. This morning, as I was praying, I was reminded of a conversation Jesus had in Luke 18.

In that chapter, Jesus talks to a rich ruler. This man tells Jesus he has kept all of the commandments, and he fancies himself a pretty good guy. But when he asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him he needs to give all he has to the poor – something this rich ruler decides is impossible. After the conversation, Jesus tells those listening that, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (vs. 25).” Understandably, his audience starts freaking out a little bit. A camel can’t go through the eye of a needle – so everybody must be out of luck when it comes to the kingdom of God. Then Jesus says this:

“What is impossible with man is possible with God (vs. 27).”

That’s good news for me. As God shows me the extent of my selfishness and pride, He’s also showing me the extent of His grace and power. No problem is so big that the Lord can’t redeem it. And no matter how big my sin, God always has a place for me in His plan.

If you like, please pray with me – pray that I and the team will continue to learn from and be used by the Lord while in Boston. Pray that we can remember how much bigger God is than any sin or shortcoming. And please pray that this team can show the love and grace God has for sinners like us to the people of this city and the people of Charlestown.

Here’s to Jesus

It was a feeling I always hated as a high school athlete.

Getting to the end of the race, finishing the last lap – and realizing I could have given more.

Especially on swim and track teams, I would always know, as soon as I finished my race, if I had given it all or if I could’ve summoned more strength.

If I could pull myself out of the pool on my first try, or if I could feel my legs – I hadn’t given enough. I could’ve given more.

The apostle Paul spends a great number of words in the New Testament comparing the Christian life to a race – and I feel like this summer God has been showing me in new ways how applicable that picture is.

Every day, I have so many chances to live for Jesus, to put the faith I say I have into my actions, to show the world that I mean it when I say Jesus Christ is my Savior and He is the only way…

and at the end of the race, at the end of this summer, at the end of my life, I don’t want to look at Jesus and say, “I could’ve given more.”

In Philippians, Paul writes, “Forgetting what is behind and straining on toward what is ahead…”

This summer, I am constantly reminded that I am called to look ahead. I am not called to keep one foot in this world while I peer half-heartedly into eternity.

I am called to give my all, to “forget what is behind” and see “what is ahead,” as Paul puts it.

In his final letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Paul was already confident that after death he would stand before the Lord and be able to say, “I can’t pull myself out of the pool – my arms are too weak. I’ll have to walk that cool down in a moment – because right now I can’t feel my legs.”

Paul didn’t plan to say, “I could’ve given more.”

And I don’t want to have to say that either.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions – to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is … to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and at the same time be “good.” … And that is exactly what Christ warned us we could not do.”

The Lord has been reminding me so much lately that that’s exactly what I try to do, over and over again.

I want to live for Jesus… but also I want financial security…

I want to be utterly and totally the Lord’s… but also I want to have the kind of life that my friends can see and maybe envy a little bit…

I want to be a radical Christian… but also I want to be glorified and praised for what I choose to see as my works, rather than the works of Christ in me…

And as C.S. Lewis puts so succinctly, “that is exactly what Christ warned us we could not do.”

Jesus himself said, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

I don’t want to finish life and realize that I didn’t give my all during the race. I don’t want to say to the Lord, “Oh, whoops… I could’ve given more.”

This summer, I have the amazing opportunity to step back from my everyday life and evaluate the way I choose to spend my time, my money, and my life. I have the opportunity to get thrown into a place where many people don’t know Jesus, and who find it strange that I would want to talk about Him and what He’s done in my life – and can do in theirs. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and one I don’t want to take for granted.

God is good and Jesus is my Savior – here’s to a summer and a life lived not for the things of this world, but for the eternity and the things that lie ahead. Here’s to Jesus.

An Introduction: The Team (Leaders)

Since I introduced the team a couple of weeks ago, I’d like to take this post to introduce the three other team leaders who are in Boston with GenSend this summer.

All four of our teams will be living this summer at the same dorm in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. This historic neighborhood is located downtown next to the shopping and financial districts. Some of our ministry focus will be in this area.

The rest of our focus will be in four other neighborhoods of Boston – each team has been assigned one (My team and I will be focused on Charlestown. With half of our ministry focus in the same area, the four teams will probably get to spend a good amount of time together this summer.

Each of the other teams has a really cool leader. I haven’t known any of them for very long, but what I do know for certain is that they all love Jesus, they are all striving to live for Him, and they all want to follow Him for the rest of their lives.

everettdoneEverett Butler – Everett is 22 and just graduated from UGA. He lives in Athens where he and a friend have a wood-reclaiming business. In college, he was really involved with Phi Slam, which is basically an alternative fraternity-type group that is Christian (not exactly a Christian fraternity, as he likes to say). Everett is extroverted, he loves making friends, and he loves talking about the gospel. Everett and his team will be spending their time in Boston’s Jamaica Plains neighborhood this summer.

Davey Walker – Davey is from a town outside of Portland, Oregon. He’s about daveydoneto turn 26, and he’s getting married just two weeks after he gets home from Boston! In the fall, Davey will be working for Young Life at Oregon State. He will also be working with college students at his church. Davey is extremely sarcastic. In other words, his sass is intense. He knows a lot about the Bible and he really enjoys reading. This summer, Davey and his team will focus on researching a town called Dorchester Lower Mills.

trentdone Trent Latham –  Trent is 20 years old and is from a small town in Arkansas. He is a junior in college, and he is studying business. Trent also serves as the college pastor at his church. He has a servant’s heart and a willingness to help anyone at the drop of a hat. He has a big desire to serve the Lord and get to know Him better. Trent is interested in potentially planting a church in the future. Trent’s area of focus this summer will be the town of Everett.

It’s been a great two weeks so far. I always find it exciting to become friends with people who are excited about Jesus and excited about sharing His love.

So far, the four of us have gotten to know the city, some wonderful church planters and pastors, and eaten some amazing food. In addition, we’ve all had the opportunity to invest some in our additional areas of focus. We’ve gone in groups of two to each of our focus neighborhoods, meeting locals and praying for the areas.

At the end of the summer, each team will design a prospectus for their major area of focus. My team’s prospectus for Charlestown will include information about the values, hopes, and needs of the community. This document will allow an incoming church planter to know some things about the community before that church planter even arrives in the area. If, in the future, someone feels called to plant a church in Charlestown, some of the groundwork for that project will already have been laid.

Please pray with me for the neighborhoods of Boston. Pray that those who are lost in each of Boston’s many neighborhoods will feel and see their need for a peace found only in Jesus. Please pray that this summer all of us in Boston with GenSend will gather not only valuable information for church planters, but also convictions about living life on mission that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

As always, thank you for your prayers, and for reading!

I (want to) pray.

“If God answered all of your prayers from the past month right now, how many people would become Christians because of that?”

The pastor of the Acts 29 church plant I went to last night closed his message with that question.

After he asked it, I repeated the question in my head, and I realized the sad answer – not one.

Now, I pray. I pray for myself, and for my family, and for my friends. I thank the Lord for what I see as being good in my life, and I pray for strength to endure and wisdom to see through His eyes anything I see as being bad in my life.

But I don’t pray too often for the people I meet who are not Christians – definitely not on a regular basis.

And when I do pray for them, it’s usually a quick shout-out to God before I fall asleep that He will move their hearts and show Himself to them.

And that’s about it.

This summer I’m living in a city where the vast majority of inhabitants are not Christians. The people I see on the T, the people I buy coffee from and with, and the people I sit across from in the public library – they probably don’t know Jesus.

And while at times my call to live for Jesus and make disciples for Him, both this summer in Boston and when I’m home at USC, can seem daunting, it’s encouraging and challenging to remember that the very first step can always be prayer.

Because prayer is powerful!

Now, the truth is that I can type that and still not really believe it. But that’s okay! The beautiful thing is that if I am doubting the power of prayer, the first thing I can do is pray for faith to believe in God’s power to answer my prayers!

So… that’s my prayer.

That I will believe in the power of prayer, and that I will start there. This summer, when I’m on my college campus, when I meet non-Christians – all the time. I pray that I will pray, more and more, and that I will see God working through those prayers.

And, I want to ask you to pray! Pray for me, pray for the other teams here in Boston, pray for the city of Boston – and pray with me for all those people we meet every day who don’t know Jesus Christ is their Savior!