I spent some time reflecting over the weekend on what a great year 2015 was. For me, the year was EPIC. Here are the top ten reasons why 2015 will be long remembered. I did not list these ten in order of significance (that would have taken several more days to contemplate that) although #1 is pretty much #1.
#1 – Vicki and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We were high school sweethearts and got married at semester break during my first year in college. I married my best friend and she is still my best friend today… that makes for a great life.
#2 – I celebrated my 40th anniversary of being on the staff of Youthfront. I came on staff part-time right out of high school and soon became a full-time staff member while I finished college and earned two Masters degrees. I am so fortunate to get to work for such a great organization with amazing and wonderful friends.
#3 – Our oldest granddaughter, Lexi, attended Youthfront camp this summer for the first time as a camper. That was awesome.
#4 – Our son, Daniel married Mariel, this year and we are happy to have her as a daughter-in-law.
#5 – The San Francisco Giants paid travel and lodging for Vicki and me to come to the Giants final game of the season at AT&T Park to be with the Affeldt Family on the field for a forty-five minute retirement celebration ceremony for Jeremy Affeldt. I met Jeremy when he played for the Royals and we became close friends and partners in ministry. Our friendship survived Jeremy being the winning pitcher in Game Seven of last year’s World Series when the Giants beat the Royals. Jeremy was the first to call and congratulate me when the Royals won this year.
#6 – Several days after returning from the amazing experience at AT&T Park with Jeremy Affeldt and the Giants, the Royals called and informed me that they were honoring me for my 40 years of public service by having me sit in the Buck O’Neil seat behind home plate. The Royals produced a video of my Youthfront ministry highlights, provided premium seats for my family, and treated me like royalty. And this all happened as the Royals won game five against the Houston Astros. Watching Johnny Cueto pitch his masterpiece behind home plate was extraordinary. Twice during the night they put my family on the Jumbo tron and ran the video about my ministry. What an amazing night.
#7 – The Kansas City Royals win the World Series. I’ve wanted my family to experience what it’s like to win the World Series like I did thirty years ago in 1985. The parade in 1985 was great but the celebration in 2015 with 800,000 people gathered downtown was EPIC.
#8 – For the last couple of years I have served as a Senior Advisor Consultant for the Museum of the Bible that will be opening in Washington, D.C. in November of 2017. Recently, I secured a significant and generous planning grant from the John Templeton Foundation on behalf of the Museum of the Bible. I will be able to lead a process to explore the issue of science and the scripture as literature. Here are excerpts from the executive summary, “A narrative has developed in the Western world that scripture and science are incompatible. Many believe science has shown the Bible to no longer be relevant and even responsible for holding back human progress. There are also those who believe that scripture necessitates an adversarial position against science. While elements of this narrative are certainly understandable in our current cultural milieu, we believe they are mistaken and damaging. The MOTB has an opportunity to help overcome these misleading views. This project will produce a detailed plan for compelling exhibits focusing on science and the Bible and create a fully developed proposal for the John Templeton Foundation requesting support to implement the plans. We believe the stakes are high if the presentation of the Bible and Science relationship is not informative and intelligent.” I feel this has potential to change the conversation about the relationship between scripture and science.
#9 – In June we completed a four-year, $4.5 million capital campaign at Youthfront Camp West. This will go down as one of the biggest highlights and most significant accomplishments of my lifetime. My spiritual life was transformed at this camp forty plus years ago. I’m so thrilled that the facilities are so amazing and well constructed that young people will be transformed at Youthfront Camp West long after I’m dead and gone. I feel so fulfilled and blessed by the success of this campaign and construction completion.
#10 – There were too many other great things from 2015 to just pick one, so here is my miscellaneous category. * I made my 22nd visit to the Middle East in May, this time on a VIP trip with a small team from Museum of the Bible. * The Chiefs make the playoffs. * In December, Vicki and I visited Micah and Samantha, who are now living in Cabo San Lucas. * In January, I attended the International Association of Youth Ministry Educators Conference in Cambridge, UK. * Featured in a Cover Story in the Youthworker Journal. * Just about every time we are with our grandkids is a GOOD TIME.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be
acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s
lifetime. – Mark Twain
A pilgrimage is a sacred journey of deliberate travel; as a quest, or
for a purpose. Experience will tell you that they are life-changing;
one rarely returns the same. It is with this in mind, that Youthfront
extends an invitation to all who are seeking broad, wholesome,
charitable views that expand our imagination of God’s work to join us on
pilgrimage to Haiti this July.
This pilgrimage will guide us away from our homes and our
expectations. As we spend a few days traveling together, we will
connect and engage with locals of Haiti and we will learn from them.
Our time will be devoted to the present – to those we meet, to that
which we see, to God.
We will see fruits of labor and sacrifice as we visit people who have
been touched by Youthfront’s Something to Eat™ and Something to Drink™
initiatives. We will visit communities who have received meals packaged
by youth right here in KC and we will visit new wells that have been
tapped bringing forth water and life. Our fellowship with Haitian
Christians and orphans, albeit momentary, will somehow leave its imprint
on us forever. Our times of solitude with God in this land may give us
peace, yet perhaps it might disturb us. Nevertheless, on our return
home, we will be different. We will discover that we have a
pilgrims tale to tell not for novelty, but to be transformed into
passionate advocates for God’s action for the poor and vulnerable both
here and abroad.
Some things you should know…
This is not a mission trip. This trip is open to
participants 16 years and older, adults and parents are welcome. Youth
14-15 may participate, however they must have a parent or legal guardian
accompany them on the trip.
Estimated Trip Cost: $1,900/person (includes airfare, lodging and
meals) An additional $50-$100 is suggested for snacks and meals as we
travel to and from Haiti.
All trip participants must be registered and submit the initial
deposit by April 15, 2013. Please note *late registrations may require
more fees as flight pricing may increase closer to the departure date.
To register and submit your initial deposit go here.
This trip is open to 15 travelers so please contact us before April
1st to share your interest and register. All trip participants must
have a current passport.
If you are interested in joining Youthfront in July on pilgrimage to
Haiti please contact Morée Scofield, the director of
Something to Drink™ at firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember taking my first short term mission trip with students nearly thirty years ago before they were a fixed annual project for most church youth groups. I have many fond memories from leading several dozen of these "short term mission trips." However, over the last seven or eight years I have engaged with many youth workers in a dialogue about the theological warrant for this concept.
Christianity Today recently featured three views on this issue. Brian Howell, believes that we should cease expensive "travel-intensive projects." He states there are good reasons for Christians to travel but "projects" is not one of them. I believe we should shift to an emphasis on missional activity in our local contexts. The concept of pilgrimage also needs to be reconsidered as a valid faith-immersion formational activity in our churches and youth groups.
"Churches should not abandon travel, but we should abandon most travel-intensive 'projects.'
It is good for American Christians to visit Christians in other places to witness what God is doing around the world. It is good for American Christians to visit missionaries, learning firsthand about their work and how to pray for them. The opportunity to learn from all our brothers and sisters living and working around the world is a gift many of us have received due to our relative wealth, access to technology, and leisure time. We should accept this blessing gratefully.
When it comes to projects, however, the good we do is often outweighed by the warped impressions left on both sides. For example, sending high-school students to do construction in front of poor, underemployed adults furthers the humiliation of the poor as they see wealthy North Americans casually doing jobs they would happily accept, while it reinforces the views of many American Christians that poor people cannot help themselves.
Our projects further promote views of poor people as lacking personal agency, as short-term mission teams often spend most of their time interacting with children conducting Vacation Bible School or teaching games. Teams often leave with the impression that the whole country is childlike, vulnerable, and in need of our care. When short-termers do interact with adults, it is often in unequal relationships—cooks, drivers, and other employees of the American missionaries—where true fellowship is difficult. Those ministries run by nationals who host short-term teams frequently adapt their ministry to meet the needs of visiting foreigners first and local residents second. These hosts are reluctant to ask too much of powerful guests or to confront their visitors' views and risk losing material benefits.
Unequal social relationships and a skewed view of poor communities can affect service in the United States too. However, there is a reason why many churches have little problem getting 25 youths to sign up for a project in South Africa, while the trip to a nearby urban community goes unfilled. The dynamics of international travel make it easier to imagine that we in the West have no responsibility for the problems "over there" beyond our occasional charity. We can feel good about our service without being confronted by our responsibility for the injustices we witness. In nearby urban centers, or a local apartment complex, we are more likely to be confronted with the reality that our lives are bound up with theirs, and we cannot so easily turn away from what is going on in front of us when it gets difficult or inconvenient.
We should not abandon international travel, nor should we be less generous with our resources. But if we would spend less time building walls, painting houses, or digging ditches, we could spend our time learning how the problems there are part of the problems here. These trips should serve to teach us how we are bound up together, in our economics, in our politics, and, most importantly, in Christ."
I left the Greenbelt Festival and headed to Stonehenge. I've heard that a lot of people talk about Stonehenge as a disappointment but I cannot understand how anyone could have that opinion about a monument that is more than 5,000 years old. I prepared myself on the drive by listening to The Prayer Cycle, which set the mood for my visit. The surrounding area around Stonehenge contains burial mounds and processional avenues that can still be visibly seen. The day was alternating between bright sunshine and clouds which made for a stunning light show on the famous stones. I was very inspired and felt amazingly alive in this place. I'm doing some writing on the theology of space and place so I'm sure this factored into my experience. Here are a few pics I took on my iPhone.
After spending the night in Brighton, I headed to Canterbury which has been on my list of "must visit places" for a long time. With my passion for Christian History and Thought you can probably imagine what a treat it was to be in Canterbury. Although, it was ridiculous to see Starbucks next to the Cathedral Gate Entrance (click to enlarge the last picture).
Gaudi was a Catalan Spanish Architect who lived from 1852 to 1926. Gaudi's architectural work was driven by his passion of nature and his Christian faith. In fact, he's often referred to as "God's Architect." His most famous work that is still in process of completion (with full directions from Gaudi) and will be for many more decades, is the Sagrada Familia.
The last couple of days we spent with Gaudi, especially in the Sagrada Familia. We also loved hisCasa Batlló.
According to one of the King Arthurian Legends the Holy Grail was taken to this other-worldly location of the Abbey at Montserrat. I didn't find it but we loved exploring this amazing site. I've been referring to Montserrat for years because of my studies in Church History. Ignatius of Loyola had a transformational conversion praying in the Bascilica here. Ignatius would develop many spiritual practices that continue to impact Christianity today. Ignatiuis was a significant figure in the counter-Reformation movement and is the founder of the Jesuit Order.
Montserrat is a little bit overcommercialized but a pilgrim staying at the Inn near the Abbey could overlook the tourism and find peace and quiet in the surrounding areas. This is a beautiful place and is the biggest reason why we are in Spain. I'm working on a writing project about space and place and their significance in Christian Formation. More on that later. Here are some pictures...
I enjoying some relief from the extremely hot weather in the USA. Vicki and I are in Barcelona, Spain where the temperature gets down to 70 degrees at night and 80 degrees in the day -- with NO HUMIDITY. Ahhhhh, Barcelona.
Below are a few pictures. Tomorrow we travel by train to the Abbey of Montserrat where Ignatius of Loyola had a significant transformation that led to his life of prayerful devotion.
No posts over the last couple of days. Vicki and I spent several days in sunny San Diego. I had several meetings. I met with Tic Long at Youth Specialties about the 2011 NYWC’s and also with Adam McLane. I had some writing projects to work on but we also loved every second of sun, surf and temperatures in the 70’s. We found a little time to play, if you call running 20 plus miles over three days playing. We do, especially when your running in such great settings as you see in the pictures.
Back from five days in the Denver area. The first couple of days Chris Folmsbee and I met with the leadership of Renovare about partnership possibilities between Barefoot, Renovare and Youthfront. We had great and synergistic conversations. The Renovare team is awesome and I look forward to working with them closer. I think wonderful things will be coming from our ongoing dialogue and planning. Stay tuned. In addition to our time with Renovare it was life-giving to have extended time to scheme and dream with Folmsbee, we've always found it easy to generate ideas and new ways of thinking about ministry, resources, leadership developent and formation.
When we finished our meetings at Renovare, Chris stayed in Denver to teach a $5 Training Session with 70 some youth workers. I headed up the mountains near Estes Park to lead a high school retreat for student leaders at Highlands Retreat Center. Although I was exhausted by the conclusion of the retreat, it was a very fullfilling ministry opportunity with young people who are very serious about faith and their life with Christ. I was also blessed to work with several dozen adult youth leaders - great people. A big thank you to Chris Johnson, a passionate youth pastor friend, who championed me coming as the speaker and Kevin Starcher who is the Director of Summer Camp and Youth Programs at Highlands.
Here are a few more pictures - mountain streams are a fascination of mine.