The Great Commission on college campus’: are we supporting it?

‘Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38

College campus ministry, what is it? It means being a staff member on a college campus who shares the gospel with students, trains them in leadership,  teaches the Bible, encourages and supports them, counsels  and guides them.  I got offered a job here in the USA to do this ministry, a ministry I had been doing for a long time back in Australia. (I am excited! I wasnt looking for a job when I came, but God had other plans and I feel so blessed that God has opened this door for me here). But, this is a ministry that desperately needs more staff. In just my area (in a radius of over an hours drive anywhere around me) I am it. In the many, many campus’ around me with the many thousands of students…there are no other staff employed to do this work, the harvest is ready…the workers are absent (you can’t really count me as a ‘few’). So, having been offered the job, the next challenge is support raising. What is support raising? I hear you ask, well it means to raise the finances to fund my wages, expenses, admin etc (and I have to raise them fully if I want to keep doing the ministry) and it also means raising a team of prayers to pray for this ministry.  So, how do you overcome cultural differences to fund a ministry in a country you don’t know? And that wasn’t a rhetorical question.

I was reading an article the other day, about this. It said that many Americans don’t like people asking for financial support…even for ministries, and though this article was written about Americans, I think it is probably true of a lot of countries (now, let me just say, at this point, that though this article may be correct, I have also met wonderful, godly people who give so much to God’s work). If this article is correct, how do you go about getting  prayer and financial support for a ministry, ie campus ministry?  If you don’t ask people, because of some bad reactions, then this robs them of the opportunity to be part of a ministry, in particular this ministry to students.  These are our potential future leaders or as someone once put it…our future.  These students, after college/university, will be reaching places we won’t be travelling to and meeting people we will never meet…all opportunities for the gospel.  If the article is right and people don’t want to be asked, then they are missing out on the opportunity to be involved in a ministry they can’t do themselves…is this what God would want? Is this why there are so few people in this field of ministry here in the USA (and in fact many other places around the world) because they can’t get support that enables them to do the ministry and pay their bills? Is it too easy to say ‘my money goes overseas or to the local church…or whatever”? If people just donated the amount they pay to take their family out (for one night a week) to dinner, it would be a huge help to get people onto campus. Campus ministry is so important, so vital. Especially nowadays when you have students struggling with student life and needing support to stay strong in their faith while on campus, or others needing to be shown what true love is, I mean REAL love, not the sugar coated version that society says is love.  Real love is sharing with someone the most important thing they will ever hear in their life…the gospel.  The one thing that if they chose to accept, will save them from Hell and give them eternal life, to share the gospel is the ultimate gift of love.  At the moment, here in the North West of America, there is a real need for staff to enter this ministry, there is a real need for staff to be on campus.

But don’t get me wrong, as I said earlier, this isn’t just Americans, this mindset towards student ministry is common in other countries too. In Australia I worked with an organisation that had many people working on campus’ around the country and, yet again, many of these workers struggled to get financial support. And for the life of me I can’t understand why. This is an amazing mission field, here in America, as well as Australia, it is one that has been challenged by secular groups on campus’.  These groups try to prevent this ministry and want the ministry staff thrown off the campus. They don’t want the Bible taught to students, or students encouraged in their faith and walk with God…and they DON’T want the gospel shared. We need an army of prayers to surround this ministry and many to financially support it. The battle is on, the devil doesn’t want to see this ministry succeed.  Ultimately, God is in control, the question is…will you step up and be part of His ministry? Will you seek out the workers in your local campus and offer to support them prayerfully and/or financially? Will you support this ministry God has created? Will you partner with the staff in His mission field?

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Expats: the exhaustion of culture shock (being an expat teaches you to laugh at yourself – maybe maniacally at times)

I grew up in the UK, lived by the social norms and yes abided by the many, many unwritten rules of our society. I was a Brit through and through (including drinking my tea lol). And then the day came, in 1990, when we emigrated to Australia. Everyone said: you won’t suffer culture shock, it is the same culture and language as the UK…HA! What little did they know. It took me a long time to get used to Australian ways ie of either shortening words or adding ‘ie’ to them (afternoon became arvo, biscuit became bikky, breakfast became brekky – you get the idea). I remember the shock I felt at church on day  (they were announcing the church trip for the following Saturday) when they reminded us to bring our ‘thongs for the beach’ I sat there stunned and shocked and whispered to my husband ‘they remind us to bring our underwear? What type of church have we joined???’ Later someone explained they meant flip flops (ie casual beach shoes). Another time, after my son was invited to a birthday party and we were asked to ‘bring a plate’, I rang the party boy’s mum and offered to bring more crockery if she needed. To which, after she had finished her hysterical laughter, she explained that in Australia ‘bring a plate’ meant to bring a plate of food to share. These are just two of the MANY cultural mistakes I have made, yep being an expat teaches you to laugh at yourself.

And here I am in the USA, another new country…rinse and repeat all over again.

I have been living in the USA, in a rural area, for about a year now. It happened  unexpectedly and wasn’t something that I had been planning. I came here to write a book…then stayed. You would think that I would be prepared for the culture shock, but I wasn’t. I had naively thought America was as portrayed in the media…yes I had watched American TV like ‘Friends’ etc and no, here isn’t like you see on TV or read about in the media. Life is very different to TV programs and media descriptions.  I had been wondering if the city (and city people) would be the America I had read about or seen on TV, because rural life and people were not.  But, my conclusion is that the media never portrays a country, and it’s people, like they really are (Australia wasn’t like ‘Neighbours’ either, the only show I had seen about Australia before I emigrated). One big difference is the place Christianity has in the American society. As I have mentioned before…it doesn’t, not to the extent we all imagined and were told by the media it would have here.

I have gone through the typical cultural shock merry-go-round: You arrive and are in the ‘honeymoon’ period where it is all glossy and new, then the ‘shock’ stage when you stand there and think ‘say what!?!?!? You do what???? Why??’ To things people say, do or you witness. The stage where you can’t believe people do things that way and didn’t they know that isn’t done in other countries…? You feel like an alien plonked on a new planet where they go about their lives in a way that looks the same as your old planet and yet is radically different, words are the same but have different meanings: Trousers (UK term) are not trousers here, they are pants (which is underwear to me 😳). A barbie is a doll here, but a bbq in Australia, ‘bush’ means rural in Australia but it is just a plant here.  Imagine the confusion if I suggested to wear your trousers for a barbie in the bush 😬.  On another note, they love your accent here (what accent? I don’t have one…you all do) but don’t understand your words (see previous comments).  They drive (well kind of) the same but on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.  And you keep questioning ‘why’ and people look at you with that ‘because’ answer, which really isn’t an answer (sorry mum and dad, it never was an answer).  You find yourself thinking ‘this is crazy’, yet to the nationals…it isn’t! And it IS tiring, be prepared for the mental exhaustion of trying to get use to it all. I have found it is easier to just go with the flow of the culture at this stage, and try to push out the negative thoughts that come to mind about them.

Then the peaceful time starts…you go through the ‘settling in’ stage, when you start to accept the differences of your new country. You find yourself relaxing more, not fighting the cultural differences so much and you think you have finally settled in…nope, get that idea out of your head, foolish girl.  Just when you think life is ‘normal’ (whatever that is) when you think you are settling down in the new culture and the worst  of the cultural shock is over, you start back at the ‘shock’ stage, and off we go again on the merry-go-round (milder each time but still tiring). I know this will settle down (it did in Australia), and I keep reminding myself that…it does get better, hang in there.

Back in America

I have been in the USA for a few months now, and yet haven’t written a blog :-/ so time for me to do a bit of catch up.  I still have a few blogs to write on places I visited in Europe, yep I promise to write them. But for now, let me share my walk here.

I am staying in a small town (pop below 500 people…hahaha I DID tell you it was small) in Washington State (NorthWest America). Life in the NorthWest is different to the rest of the USA, or so I am told. It is the most Atheist part of the USA, and so I shouldn’t have ben surprised that most churches I have visited were not that full. Yet, it still surprises me that signs about God and Jesus are on the road side (you don’t see that in my home countries of UK and Australia) but even here it is only permitted if the sign is on private land. I had always been under the allusion that America was so Christian (as a lot of my friends thought also), so you can understand my shock and sadness to see that in fact it looks like America has lost it’s first love…God is on the sidelines here, no longer central to American’s life. It seems that fast food and sport has become their central interest (and thus their god). God has been reassigned to the basement, with last years Christmas gifts and other unwanted and forgotten things. What happened to this country? This place that use to love God so much? Yes, the politicians still talk about God and use his name in their speeches…like a password to get elected, but yet the churches aren’t full, people aren’t seeking God and even their Supreme court has approved same sex marriage. 

I have gone through the period, in a new country, of seeing through rose coloured glasses, then the culture shock (more on that later) then reality…and so I ask myself ‘what happened here?’ And is this just a symptom of the loss of faith we are seeing in many western cultures?

Goettingen

It’s been a while since i wrote and I have a lot to tell you about 🙂

I have stayed mainly in Goettingen but taken some time out to visit The Netherlands (more on that in the next post). At the moment i am heading to Rothenberg ob der Taura.  But before i jump to that, let me tell you a bit more about Goettingen.
Goettingen was one of the towns that was protected from bombing in World War 2 (there was an arrangwment netwwen Germany and UK to not bomb each others university towns). So, because of this, Goettingen still has many of it’s old buildings.  If you go into the town centre you will see a lot of these old buildings dating from 14th century.  Most have dates on so that you know when they were built…handy if you don’t know your architecture lol.  The other thing to note is that a lot of streets and buildings have names on them of famous scientists.  Now, that shouldn’t be a surprise because Goettingen is the town for science.  Over 40 Nobel Prize winners have come from here.  
   

     

  
In the town, next to the Town hall there is a statue of a young girl herding geese.  This has become a well known statue because of the many PhD students who kiss her after getting their PhD (and nope don’t think about the multiple germs possibly on her lol).
  


Reflections on ministry – Behind the Curtain part 2

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Is it godly to let people walk on you when you are in ministry?

My reflections here are not to point fingers and whinge, but to open discussion and get people to start thinking about ministry families. My hope is that by opening discussion it will bring out into the light the struggles of ministry life…and by bringing it out into the open it will help people to start talking and help families to stay in ministry for the long haul.

I have just read this very interesting article:

http://www.alifeoverseas.com/im-not-supposed-to-have-needs-lies-we-believe/

Her description of life in ministry was so true of my experiences in it (though don’t get me wrong…i also had many wonderful and God honouring experiences in ministry as well). For example: many times i had people from church walk into my home (without asking) and walk around like it was their home, why? because it belonged to the church. I once found a woman in my son’s bedroom tidying it up…i was horrified (and so was he when he found out) that she was putting his underwear away. I had another criticising where i had placed furniture in the house. At another church i had a member of the parish council ask to come in to check a new oven they had put in, and then he promptly went around the rooms and in my sons room found the heater still on. He had ‘words’ with me about wasting energy…at the next parish council my husband was reprimanded for heaters being left on in a room someone wasn’t in (this was in a house which was bitterly cold in winter) and yet did i tell him or the others to get out and keep their opinions to themselves? No, because there is an expectation within churches that the ministry house is theirs and they have access whenever they want.

Another expectation is that the minister’s wives will be polite/gentle/non complaining etc and can be told how to do things in her own home aka church house, how to run their families, asked to pick up the slack when others can’t do things, expected to run ministries. Those minister’s wives who get angry over the expectations of others are looked down on by some in the church, as if they aren’t as godly as they should be. And yet there are so many expectations on the minister’s wife ie don’t want to do criche/Sunday school on Sunday? Ring the minister’s wife the night before and ask her to do it… you know she will never say no (even if it means she is up all night planning the next day’s lesson) she is expected to just do it and with a smile.

These are just a few examples, not all churches/members are like this and these aren’t always the experiences of all those in ministry but, churches need to really think about how they treat the family of the minister (as well as him) and ministry families need to think about why they allow people to treat them like this. We all need to ask ourselves…how does God want me to behave/respond? We can deal with any situation in a godly manner without ending up being a doormat or being aggressive. God doesn’t want us to be a doormat, nor does he want us to be rude and aggressive. He wants us to deal with each other in a way that is honouring to Him.