Monday, July 29, 2013

Discovering vs. Deciding

Sunday Pastor Kevin quoted something I've thought about for a while (yay). It's the idea that for many people, we decide what we want God to be like instead of discovering who God is.

And I know that sounds offensive at first, no one wants to think their view of God is false or that God is nothing more than an imaginary friend to them. But really stop and think about it for a minute. Is what I believe about God based in something I've learned or was there something I just really wanted God to be, so I decided He should be like that?

When I was in school I had two mini epiphanies. One was from a professor, that we can never know everything there is to know about God. After all, if that were possible, that means God is no greater than what I think, meaning He would be no greater than me. And trust me, God's bigger than me. The other was if someone is real, than my opinion does absolutely nothing to change them. I can think you are an angry person, but that doesn't somehow make you an angry person. It just makes me wrong (hopefully). My belief of you does not decide who you are. Likewise, what I believe about God changes Him in no way. So the better answer is for me to do all I can to discover who God is so my beliefs are true.

The other day I read this quote by Ravi Zacharias. "Intent is prior to content. If you are not looking for truth, any answer can be interpreted as reasonable." It's true, if you're just looking for any answer and not testing it to make sure it is true, a lot of different answers will suddenly be okay to answer your question. If, however, your intent is to find the truth, you will work harder to find the right answer. When discovering who God is, we need to have the intent on learning who God really is, not just looking for the answer we like the best and makes us feel the most comfortable.

Otherwise, what will we have?


Monday, July 22, 2013

Newport - Christian Mud Wrestling

No, we did not go to a Christian mud wrestling event on the mission trip. Let's just get that out of the way now...

What happened was a long conversation with Leland, our site director. He is going through something that I wish more Christians would go through. He's wrestling with his faith and how to live it out.

Please understand, this is not about what he believes. It has to do with how that translates into life. For the past few years he has been attending a Christian school studying to enter the ministry. He is surrounded by fellow believers who hold Christ as high he does in their lives. He even went on a mission trip himself last year with some people who had such high standards on their faith they only listened to Christian music.

And then he joined Youthworks. He's now on week seven of being in the actual mud of ministry. The kids at kids club don't behave, they act like the broken homes they come from. Other churches in town aren't as co-operative as he hoped. Not everyone wants Christ's love. Ministry sites can be hard to work with. Churches are coming on mission trips with students who don't behave, leaders who don't support or follow the rules and the biggest struggle, all these people believe different things and act in ways that vastly differ. He's in the mud.

I think many followers of Christ have this problem. They live in a world that is custom designed to make them feel safe. They go to a church they like, that preaches what they believe, they only attend the Bible Studies they want, only serve if and when they feel like it and Jesus is a nice guy who's there to listen when they want Him to. If their faith was a house, it would be neat and clean and orderly, just the way they like it. But what happens if someone enters this house who is messy and doesn't know the rules? What if someone enters their life and muddies it up a little? There's two options: You can put up with the mess, get to know the person, love them despite it, try to live with them and their mess, maybe even try to help them be cleaner. A lot of work and a lot of time.

Of you can kick them out.

That seems harsh, but really, which is easier? Which one is do we disciples of Christ do every single day? The advantage (as I see it) that Leland has, he can't leave. He has to finish the job he started and it is helping him wrestle and grow stronger every day. The question is, when someone enters your house of faith and starts messing it up, are you willing to wrestle in the mud and get a little dirty with them?


Friday, July 19, 2013

Newport Day 5

My apologies that the stories from students were not up last night. Unfortunately, we were just way too late in getting to bed (it was the prayer night/footwashing ceremony, I didn't see my bed until after 1). But, we have some stories about Thursday, here they are.

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As this week has gone on, I’ve realized how truly blessed I am to have the people in my life that I do. Today was not only my favorite day, but a very moving day for me. My crew this week has been absolutely amazing and I’ve enjoyed being with them every day through whatever we did. At Hal’s farm today we worked on collecting a ginormous pile of sticks and logs. It was very dirty work, but getting to do this task with Dustin and Brad definitely made it so much easier for me. Another thing that made me so happy to go to Hal’s each day, was seeing how much of a great man Hal is. He devotes his life to getting those who have made mistakes back on their feet. It touches me to know that he helps them know the love of God and lets Him direct them back on the right path. He is such a caring man with such wisdom that I loved listening to. It was such a great work day, but what really made my day was the club activity tonight. At the end of every YouthWorks week, we do a feet washing just like Jesus did with the disciples. It’s such a moving experience because you genuinely feel that God is present and that he is watching and knows how much it impacts you. You feel the love of God and it is honestly such an amazing point in the week. It brings me to tears because I am so overwhelmed with joy and I can honestly feel how much I am loved and how much I am needed. As the feet washing is happening, Troy and Mrs.Witzig prayed over me and I could not have felt more special at that moment. Everyone in the room was crying and it really gave me a chance to open up to others in the youth group and realize how much they are there for me and how much they love and care for me. It is so reassuring to know that I have a safe place to go to where I can tell anyone anything. I could not have asked for a better week and I can’t believe its coming to an end so fast. I made so many great relationships with those from the other church and I strengthened those within my own church. God has blessed me with the opportunity to have this experience and I know that he has changed me this week. –Lauren Detrich

Hey Everybody, tonight marks the end of what I can truthfully call the most exciting and unpredictable mission trip of my life. This evening was particularly interesting in two ways. Anyone familiar with a YouthWorks Mission trip knows that Thursday night is foot washing night. This ceremony reenacts the actions of Jesus on the night preceding his betrayal. Usually this is a cryfest with ever girl… and Stebbe bawling their eyes out because they are attached to the moment. This year, there was no less attachment, just very few tears. Everyone seemed more interested in talking than crying (I consider this an improvement) for me, the entire process was light hearted because the music in the background was a blaring jazz number that had nothing to do with the situation at hand. My Dad also provided comic relief by tickling my feet when he washed them. (total goober) after everything the boys returned to our sleeping room (a tabernacle) for bedtime story and a giant pool noodle war. Our bed time story activity was to serenade the girls in their sleeping room by singing the iconic Disney anthem “A Whole New World” after the singing had finished the boys returned to our sleeping area. Earlier in the day several boys had stopped at a Sonic before showering, next to this Sonic was a family dollar. We bought pool noodles, and foam dart guns, and rubbery dodge balls. When we returned to the sleeping room after our serenade, we took up these weapons and had a twenty minute long teenage boy pillow fight. Matt, Jeff, and Tim all took part. Troy was involved as well (It was awesome). In the end I can solidly say that Team Indiana beat out our Michigander competitors. -Dustin Meeks 

This week in Newport has been one of the most life changing mission trips I have been on. The start of the week was definitely a struggle but as the week progressed I gradually realized how privileged of a life I have and how much I take that for granted. When I went to the kids club this week I met a boy named Storm. He was one of the most athletically inclined kids I have ever seen. He would play the games with the other kids and completely blow everyone away with his raw talent. It was sad to soon realize that Storm may never be able to do anything special with his ability and will be stuck in the black hole of Newport. Now on to the subject of the feet washing last night. Every year I go on a mission trip I have a huge god moment where I see all of the sins I have made and how bad it makes me feel to sit and sulk about the small things that happen in my life. This also leads to crying every year. This year was different to say the least, I began the night sitting in silence thinking to myself about all of the things I have done wrong and just reflecting on the past year. That moment right there was the beginning of the waterworks. Soon after I calmed down it was my turn to have my feet washed and for Troy and Mrs. Witzig to pray with me. That started it again. As the night progressed I had many emotional conversations with a few of the incoming freshmen. We talked about everything from god to their upcoming high school experience. It was so great to be able to help them through what they think is going to be the hardest time of their lives. This group of individuals I call my youthgroup has changed my life in so many ways and in the process has given me a place to have someone to talk to about everything. They are most definitely a dear part of my heart that I never want to lose. I love these people so much like a second family. – Makinna Laymon

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Newport Day 4

Wednesday is always an interesting day on a mission trip. It's half-way done, students are realizing how little time left they have to make an impact, and at a split-site which this is, it means many students switch their ministries they have been working on. Add in the massive thunderstorms tonight that messed with our evening activity and you have all sorts of fun (we did a prayer drive, we travelled throughout the town and learned some stories then prayed for the ministries there). And we had a few people eager to tell their stories, so enjoy the blogs!

As a member of the “Lost” crew, I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the Kids Club every day this week.  On Monday and Tuesday, only about eight kids came, which was a bit disappointing considering we had about twenty YouthWorks student volunteers. However, today about twenty kids showed up!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Kids Club and appreciate the interactions I have experienced with the children. Kids Club has different stations in which the kids participate, and I am a leader at the Reading Post.  At the Reading Post, the kids read a bible story with the group and then, they can choose to either pick out other books to read or play cards.  Yesterday, I read with a girl named Ali, who will be in seventh grade this fall. Today after the bible story, Ali raced over to me again to see if we could keep reading the story that we didn’t have a time to finish the day before.  I was so proud that Ali wanted to continue practicing her reading skills. Even in my three days with the kids, their attitudes have improved, and most of them seem eager to learn about God.  I will definitely miss all of the children at Kids Club, and hope they will continue chasing after Jesus when Kids Club ends in a couple weeks and their school begins. -Kari Lorentson

These past few days have been a blast! The people from the other church are very friendly. In my group for this week, there are ten students plus two adults, split pretty evenly with people from each church. For the first two days my group did manual labor for Hal at his house. If you haven’t heard about who Hal is, he is a guy that ministers to addicts and is involved with the YouthWorks service. Today most of the groups switched up what they were doing; my group went from Hal’s to the Kids Club, which was a pretty drastic change. At the club, I met a few of the kids there. One I met was named Quinton. He was a pretty nice kid, kind of shy, and some of the other kids and I played ball with him for a while. After kids club was over, I went with some other people to drop the kids off at their houses, and it was very interesting to see where all the kids were coming from. The kids we dropped off all lived in a government subsidized housing area called Myers Circle, which was saddening for me to see so many families living in near poverty.

Later in the day we went on a prayer tour, going around the town of Newport and stopping at several places to pray for many things. We stopped at a park, a goodwill, and a soup kitchen that many of our youth have been serving at this week. It was very humbling to see so many of the things that go on in this town. I look forward to the next and last day of serving with an eager heart and an open mind. –Mattheus Mitchell

I have had a really eye-opening experience over the past few days here, it’s been really great! The first few days working with the kids at Kids Club were a blast, although the first day was hard, being able to reach out to the kids. Even by the second day, though, I was able to make some good connections with them. And of course, I got to be a part of my favorite aspect of worship, music!!!!

Now, though, I’ve moved on and my crew, Love, has started working out at Hal Valentine’s farm. It’s a lot of hard work, not my favorite thing in the world, but it’s really great knowing that I’m making a difference and being able to see physical results from my actions. Today we hacked weeds out of Hal’s pasture, enjoying the adventure of how to learn how to use all the different tools. When we had finished up and moved to lunch, we got to try some of Hal’s AMAZING lemonade. Like seriously, I want to bring him home with me so he can make it all the time! We did finally get back to work though, and we went out back to trim his fence and cover the barn with chicken wire.

My half of the crew worked on the fence, and that was where I was really grateful to everyone in the crew for their amazing and supportive attitudes. We had cleared out most of the first half of the fence and we noticed a little wasp’s nest, which we tried to avoid. Being me, I completely forgot where the nest was and managed to get myself a fun little sting. It wasn’t too bad, through my shirt on my arm, so not even a stinger to pull out, but as soon as I noticed, everyone dropped everything to help me out. Matt was amazing and really kind, and he’s been checking up with me all day to make sure I’m still feeling alright. The rest of the day was less eventful for me, hard to beat such an fun afternoon, but we did have a really meaningful evening activity, going around to all our work sites to pray for the everyday people who work and use the places around Newport. It’s really important to be reminded that there’s always something going on, even after we leave. My last day is tomorrow, and I’m really going to be sad when it’s over, even if it is more manual labor. I’ve really loved this experience and I can’t wait to bring my attitude back to Fishers. -Jacob Bennington

Newport Day 3 (Revisited)

As chance would have it, we had all three bloggers from last night in the same place at the same time this morning with a chance to rewrite their blogs, so they did! Here are their stories, enjoy!

With my first mission trip being at Oklahoma, and my most recent one being at Minneapolis, I know what makes a mission trip easy or challenging. So far, I had spent the last two days at a local farm. I have seen many things ranging from horses eating all of our lunches to watching Hal (farmer and a good example of my Godfather in 20 years) shoot a possum at point blank range seven times right in front of me. This is by far my favorite work site so far in my mission trips. I did things outside of painting a house or pouring mulch on a local playground. I had to be pushed outside of my comfort zone with challenges like clearing out a rodent and spider infested scrap pile, and sorting out and rewrapping barbed wire.

Throughout the week, I have heard heart-warming stories of little toddlers and senior citizens in assisted living. I for one have no such story, we went to a farm all day and had fun, but I never really saw what life was like outside of my worksite. I was focused on trying to get projects done that couldn’t even be close to finished after two days. I haven’t experienced a fluffy heart warming story that I’ll tell to all my family members when I tell them about the trip. I have had a great time so far, and I have come to realize that mission trips are more than sweet stories, sometimes they consist of laughing with friends and pushing your limits. –Jacob Stebbe

Today, we went to a man named Hal, and he owned a farm. He had a plethora of jobs for us to do from weedwacking to sorting stuff behind a barn. Even though I got poison ivy working along the fence, Hal seemed incredibly grateful for the  things we did for him and his wife. Hal was a very wise and nice man who helped addicts with their problems. His patients would either come to his house for counseling or he would go to them. Both days we worked for him he gave us lemonade at lunch and told us stories of his life with a lesson behind them. Today, though, he gave us more than jobs to do. He gave us his food because his horses had toppled our cooler, spilling the lunches everywhere, leaving only the Cheezits bags intact. While it hasn’t felt like a real godly trip yet, every last bit of hard labor we’ve done has been worth it. -Matt Nieland

On the first day my group Wicked, had to separate since the thrift shop only need a few volunteers. So half of us went to Feed my Sheep; a food pantry/soup kitchen/church. The soup kitchen reminded me a lot of the restaurants. At first I and a girl from another church up north, Jackie both organized the food pantry. We got to know each other pretty well! After that I was moved to the soup kitchen and I was able to serve people their food and drinks. I felt like a waiter.

So as I continued my job I meant a man who really opened my eyes. This man volunteer once a week.  He told me how we would go and travel around the States and world to do missionary work for a couple weeks or even for a couple months. He told me he went to Romania to Ireland to Arizona. I was amazed by how active he was at his hometown but also all around the world. He showed me that I can still do mission work, no matter where I am; at my hometown or even a whole different state. -Emily Buckler

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Newport, Day 3

A little bad news for today, in the middle of students writing the blog he computer decided to run an update, all the blogs were lost for today (sorry), and since I'm trying to type this on a phone, here's Troy's quick update:

Today was the last day for most groups at their ministry site, tomorrow those who were at Kids Club go to worksite and vice versa. A few groups also had some new experiences working at Goodwill and nursing homes.

The evening activity was a bluegrass concert by some really talented musicians from 16 to 60. Even those who don't like the bluegrass style of music said they liked the concert.

Our theme for the day was being pursued by God, it hit home with some students.

We have also become known as the youth group that sings, they were quite loud when singing along with "Undignified" in the church bus.

Thank you all for your prayers and support, sorry again for the lack of student posts, we will have some tomorrow (Windows willing).


Monday, July 15, 2013

Newport Day 2

So today we got to actually start working at our different worksites. But I'm not going to tell the stories, here are a few from our students. Enjoy! (and my apologies, cell service and wifi are not our friends out here so I won't be putting pictures on the blog, feel free to browse a few at the Fire & Water Facebook page and Instagram account).

On the first day, I immediately noticed that many of these kids had come from rough families and, like many people, were “broken”.   However, the kids seemed to be very comfortable with the youth workers.  We all got to connect with them and allow them to have a good time at the kid’s club.  There were still some difficulties because it was tough; many of them were very shy and timid, but they eventually opened up towards a few and created friendships.  Tonight, we learned that all of us are “broken” from sin and have sometimes not done what God wants us to do.  I realized that we are not that different from these kids who come from a very different background.  We all have that trait that we were “broken” but still loved and desired by God who looks at the bigger picture.  Even though we may all be “broken” God still desires to have a relationship with us and have a connection with us because we are all his children. -Evan Hodes

I was also at the kid’s club the first day. There was about an 8 to 30 ratio of kids to youth workers. Although it was kind of a slow day for some of us, it was really nice to watch these kids open up to us in just 6 hours. Some just came right up and hugged us, and some required a couple of hours to engender affection. During the first day, through the kids, we were able to glimpse a bit about Newport. Our crew drivers went and picked up a few kids from their houses, which they sometimes would share with other families, and dropped them off at the end of the day. Although really nothing spectacular happened today, it was a really good learning day for the most of us. -Kate Wade

Hello errybody! Tis Alec here. I was working at a sort of thrift shop called God’s Storeroom today. And while there was a lot of work to be done here, the work itself seemed sort of… insignificant. We spent a while sorting through all sorts of things that needed to end up on shelves, however these shelves were already full. I felt that as we were adding to the shelves, we were only making them messier. However our church discussion afterwards helped me realize that I have to continue to look at the work that I’ve done and realize that I might not be able to see the impact I’m having, but it’s still there. I’m hoping that as this mission trip progresses, I can begin to look more beyond myself, and see how the impact that we are having is affecting the whole community. This trip isn’t for me, it’s for the community of Newport. -Alec Balasko

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Newport Day 1

Hey everyone, we have made it safely to Cosby, TN (it’s the little town we’re staying at next to Newport). Thanks to all those who have been praying for us, we appreciate your support. Every day we’ll be posting stories from students, so here are a few from today with our trip down. Enjoy!

As some may not know, this is my first high school mission trip. I have a decent idea of how it will go from junior high, but I’m hoping this can be a new experience for me. We just now found out our crews that we will be working with all week, and I was hoping I would be at the same site all four days, but I will actually be serving in a kid’s club for the first day, at another site for one day and working on a farm the last two. This means that I will have to try to make as big of an impact on these peoples’ lives in the 3-12 hours I may have with them… Wish me luck! –Grace Balasko

I have gone on quite a few mission trips in the past, once to Alabama and a much closer to home Indianapolis with my old church, but this is my first with the Fishers United Methodist Church. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I signed up to go. Here now, I’m finding out that it is a much different atmosphere than any of the other trips I’ve been on. Whereas the trip in Alabama was organized with many other churches, and the trip to Indy consisted only of my churches youth group, this trip to Newport has two churches, and even though we’ve only been together here for a few hours, the fellowship between the two youth groups has become very apparent and I hope by the end of the week we will all be very good friends. –Mattheus Mitchell

How to start a blog post? I guess the most logical place would be the same place I seem to start every mission trip: with an injury. A few hours into bonding with the other groups, we decided to play some Ultimate; as we were making the last play of the game, I run after a stray pass to go for the final point. The other team’s best defender decides to give me a hit I’ll remember: the big, white, obvious church van picks a fight with me, and I came out the loser. Luckily the other church’s van is made out of tougher material than my face, so it suffered no injury. In other news, I managed to score a mission’s team who has been assigned dinner prep at the community cookout on Thursday. This is a good thing because I have been on this team not once, twice, or even three times; but seven out of seven in my Youthworks career, so I am very experienced at serving burgers and hot dogs. The other church seems very nice, and is genuinely thrilled to be here, so I can’t wait to see where this trip goes. –Andy Patterson

Monday, July 08, 2013

Silence Is Golden

Last night our students participated in our semi-annual prayer night. We set-up stations and allow students to pray in various forms (for example, instead of just praying for God to forgive you for something, we had students write out what they would like to be forgiven for and place them on nails on the cross, making Jesus' sacrifice a little more tangible). It always amazes me how students we haven't seen for a while, God send them to this event.

There was a theme to last night. Silence. For over an hour every prayer station was to be done in silence. Some loved it, some hated it. But in our discussion at the end of the night I kept realizing how little we have silence in our lives and how much we need it. We are barraged by noise coninually in our lives. There are very few places or times of day where we have just silence. Now with cell phones we have the ability to have noise all the time, even if we don't want it that little device can go off to tell us we have mail or a text or to complete your daily challenge in Temple Run II (that was oddly specific).

And I think we do that for comfort. We have grown comfortable in noise, we enjoy it, we crave it. Too much silence hurts. Veronica Roth said this: "Noise and activity are refugee for the bereaved and the guilty." Almost like we use noise as an escape for the calm of being with Jesus because we're scared of it.

So here's my challenge, be silent. Find a place to pause. Away from the internet, TV, radio, machines, people, away from it all, even if it's just for a few minutes a day. It may do you some good.


FYI, next week I will have help writing the blog as FIRE and WATER Students will be posting stories from our summer mission trip. I hope you get a chance to read about their adventure!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Turning To God In Trouble?

I've been reading through the prophets lately, it's kind of grim to see how the people of God were acting, how God tried to warn them of what their actions were causing and how the leaders treated the prophets trying to save them.

And a little light bulb went off when I was reading Hosea 6. Great chapter, I love verse 6 describing true worship of God as not in how we sing at church but how we treat people outside of church, but something seemed to stick out while reading that chapter. People seem to turn to God in trouble.

When things are going good, people tend to relax, think about themselves, pray less, etc. until something bad happens. This leads to a massive turning to God and asking for His help.

Here's what I was thinking about, if we only turn to God when times are tough, and God wants us to always be with Him, if I were God why not just let people be in trouble all the time? Really, if I know the only way to get someone to pay attention is to ring their doorbell incessantly, then I'm going to ring their doorbell like crazy. If the only time people turn to God is when trouble hits, why not just allow people to live in despair at all times so they are constantly relying on Him? After all, in other places of the world that are not as blessed as North America this is happening.

Maybe we should be thankful for God loving us when times are good so we don't need to be reminded of who God is like the people of Israel needed. I like that option waaaay better...