Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Cambridge 7

To live is Christ, and to die is gain...

Tonight in Perspectives, I learned about a little history that I found fascinating... Imagine Lebron James leaving behind a promising NBA career of fame and fortune to be a missionary to a remote village in China with six other no name guys. You can only begin to wonder of the uproar and awe that would create in the world. This was the Cambridge 7, one especially who was named C.T. Studd.

Charles Studd liked playing sports and he had a particular passion for cricket, the most popular sport in England at the time. He was not athletically gifted but he worked hard at his sport and was determined to become the best cricket player. He spent hours in front of a mirror, perfecting his swing and refusing to smoke or even be in the same room with smokers for fear it would hurt his eyes. As he played and practiced and watched other players, his own game improved to the point where he had mastered every facet of cricket. He became captain of the Eton cricket team and his popularity grew and grew. In 1879, Studd entered Trinity College of Cambridge University (University of Cambridge) and from there his name no longer remained only in cricket circles. Rather, C.T. Studd became a household name throughout Great Britain. By 1883 Charles Studd was the captain of the Cambridge cricket team and he was the idol of undergraduates and school boys and admired by elders. Studd had become the Michael Jordan of cricket. Studd was recognized as the greatest player to have ever played the game, and years later, he was still recognized as the greatest cricket player since.

Yet all the while, his faith in Jesus grew cold. At Eton, Studd and his brothers Kynaston and George, had formed a group Bible study. While at Cambridge, his older brother Kynaston still devoted his heart to serving Jesus but Charles and George were lukewarm. Charles went to the occasional Daily Prayer Meeting and identified himself as a Christian, which, combined with his talents and good nature, gave him a good reputation amongst his peers and throughout the university. But he was not living for Jesus. Studd would later say, "Instead of going and talking of the love of Christ I was selfish and kept the knowledge all to myself. The result was that gradually my love began to grow cold, and the love of the world came in." In short, he was only a nominal Christian.

In November of 1883, Charles' younger brother George was dying. Charles loved his brother dearly and he was stricken with grief. But God used this event to change his life. When Charles looked at his dying brother, who was also a popular cricket player in his own right, he could only conclude, "Now what is all the popularity of the world to George? What is all the fame and flattering? What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?" As George lay dying, his only concern was for the Bible and for the only one who could save him, Jesus Christ. Charles' concern became the same. Miraculously, God restored George's health and at the first opportunity, Charles went to hear Moody. While listening to God's word, Charles's heart was opened. Cricket did not matter; only a relationship with his Savior and Lord Jesus mattered. Charles T. Studd said, "There the Lord met me again and restored to me the joy of His salvation. Still further, and what was better than all, He set me to work for Him, and I began to try and persuade my friends to read the Gospel, and to speak to them immediately about their souls."

Charles gave himself to God and God accepted him. God set him to work and God would use C.T. Studd, in a way greater than the cricket player could have ever imagined.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Zambia Update Letter #2

My life changed last Friday morning. I had my eyes opened to life in a new way. I had lasik surgery on my eyes, and I am seeing 20/15, baby!!! It was a nerve racking experience, for sure, and it took a lot of encouragement just to get me into that room. I laid down on that table, and a little cutting and some red laser beams reshaping my eyes, and less than 10 minutes later, I sat up and I could read the clock from across the room. No more contacts and no more glasses! If all stays good, I am going to become the next evangelist for LasikPlus, sharing the good news of lasik surgery to all who will listen. (plus, I get $25 dollars if someone I referred goes thereJ). I am overjoyed at the clarity of my new vision, and the five sunny days in a row, and the mountains clear as day in the distance have only served to be bring continual amazement at a technological invention that has altered how I see life.

Stephanie and I are also having a different kind of eye surgery every Wednesday night on the Western Washington University campus taking a class called Perspectives. The official title of the class is Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, and for those who are not familiar with this class, it is an amazing, eye-opening, life-changing class that is taught all over the world. We lie down at the table every night, have our old eyes cut open, a red laser beam of God’s word reshaping our understanding of the Bible and missions, our hearts being transformed and enlarged and our minds filled to overflowing with the missionary God reaching out to a world he loves so much. We sit back up, and look at the clock, amazed how fast three hours goes by. We are fast becoming evangelists for Perspectives as well.

Among the many statistics that we have heard, there was one last night that caught our attention. The teacher said that 70% of all the pastors in the world are untrained. I turned and smiled at my wife. We are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2-3), and we look forward to blessing and being blessed by African pastors in Zambia come September 2007, if the Lord wills. After teaching a class in Zambia this past October to over 125 pastors and leaders on how to study the Bible and preach the Word, my eyes have been opened to the hunger for and lack of training these pastors have. Glenn Ripley, the director of ACTION Zambia, is gearing up to begin a program called ChurchWorks that will be implemented into a handful of local churches. The aim of this program is comprehensive church-building—to leave the church healthier, functioning independently, and ready for further growth. The program will use 12 factors to assess current weaknesses and identify areas for growth. Churches will be selected based on an established set of factors to ensure selected churches are like-minded with AZ and good candidates for growth. This is where I will be spending a lot of my time, in addition to speaking at conferences, churches and one-on-one mentoring and training.

We have been blessed to be a part of two great churches in America, and now we want to be a blessing in Africa. We are looking for partners to join us in this new venture. Interestingly enough, yesterday, we received a scam email yesterday of a Christian woman wanting to give us $900,000 dollars for our Zambia work if we replied back to her. I was reflecting a bit on this email, pretending it was real, and as I felt the effect of this pretend email being a real email, in that we would no longer need any more supporters, I felt the honest heavy sadness as I realized many people would miss out on being a part of our ministry in Zambia. And I realize, now more than ever, that we really want partners who will go with us both financially and in prayer, people who will pray with us and for us, people who will consider themselves Zambia bound by their sacrifices of prayer and finances. We want to develop a team of people who will commit to being on our team, people we can be accountable to, and be there to cheer us on and keep us going. Please pray about this over the next month or two and let us know!

Just an update on where we are at financially at this point: We have received 71% of our needed Outgoing funds, and have received pledges for 29% of our monthly needs. Praise the Lord for his amazing provision! We are continually being stretched through this process as we feel like we have no idea what we are doing. But, in the end, it's not about us, it's about God, and we know that for sure He knows what He is doing. This is very reassuring.

Some prayer updates for those of you who have said that you would like to be praying:
That we would rest in Him during this time of support raising, and that God would refine us through this process.
Wisdom for Steve and the Northlake elders as they continue work on the transition that will take place in youth ministry. God is doing some great things in the ministry and in this transition.
That God would raise up at least 70 people (10 a day would be great) who would like to be a part of our prayer support team....committing to pray for us once a week (We currently have 34 couples/individuals on this team).

In closing, we wanted to share one of the many verses that God has been using to re-shape our understanding of God's purposes, and His ultimate plan for our lives.

Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV) "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. [3] I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

For the glory of his Name,
Steve and Stephanie