Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mission trip to Mexico

Recently at CTI we announced confirmation of our short-term ministry locations for this summer - one of which is to Guadalajara, Mexico, in partnership with Youth With a Mission there. This particular program has a special place in my heart since I led our pioneer team there in 2003.

I shared the following thoughts with our staff and team members when I announced confirmation of our 2007 team:

Mexico is pretty much the "given" field for American youth ministry abroad. As a California kid, I made several trips across the border to orphanages or church plants with my home congregation. So many youth groups take such trips that it's become almost cliché. (In 1999, the ska group "Bunch Of Believers" released a tune called "Mission Trip to Mexico." It's either disturbingly shallow, or an attempt to make light of the cliché. I don't know which.)

Anyway, in such a climate, the thought of a CTI tour to Mexico often strikes disappointment in the hearts of recruits who get assigned there instead of, say, the glamorous mission fields of Africa. This was true in 2003 when I led our first team to work with YWAM GDL. I've heard similar stories since.

It's important to clarify that we're not making an over-the-border hop here into communities where American youth groups keep the Mexican tourism industry alive. Though border towns are frequented by U.S. youth in search of a missions experience, Mexico remains the 2nd least evangelized Latin American country. The Mexican state of Jalisco (where the YWAM base near Guadalajara is located) is the least evangelized state in all of Mexico. There is therefore good reason to believe that our ministry partners in this environment are working among some of the least evangelized people in all of Latin America.

In 2003, our ministry in GDL included spending time with the poorest of the poor, giving presentations at the equivalent of U.S. "soup kitchens" where people come for rations of food and messages of hope. YWAM works with a ministry that also has a significant presence in the prison system, as well as a continuing outreach to the homeless "street children" of Guadalajara. This partnership in particular is a quintessential manifestation of our ability to help bring notoriety to a ministry organization that works the same fields day in and day out. There are few places I'd rather send a team.

Our first team to GDL spent an unsettling mid-day among the trash heaps of a vacant lot while our ministry partners served lunch to a community of homeless people who were addicted to huffing paint fumes. The indelible impact this experience had on the team members is incalculable. In 2005, a CTI team visited a town that had been "closed" to the Gospel for years. YWAM had spent years gently trying to establish a presence there. That CTI team was the first visiting ministry team to be taken into that town. Team members did mostly one-on-one relational ministry with the locals there, using acoustic music more as a casual bridge-builder than a large-scale attention grabber. These are the sorts of things that happen in Mexico.

I'm excited about continuing this partnership. YWAM is excited about having us back. I hope our recruits will be excited for this opportunity as well.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The way of love - Part III: The very nature of God

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
        did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
        taking the very nature of a servant,
        being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
        he humbled himself
        and became obedient to death—
                even death on a cross!
                - Philippians 2:1-8

Here is the true relationship between love and service: Christ’s love for the Father… even His love for us, was proven real as He took on “the very nature of a servant.” He did this because of love- it was His very nature to serve because He was, in very nature, God… and the very nature of God is love (see I John 4:7-8.)Because of love, the Father sent the Son to redeem the world (see John 3:16-17.) Christ the Son shared the Father’s love for the world because He was, in very nature, God. His love for the world was therefore shown through His obedience to the Father’s will.

Here’s where I’m going with all of this: the problem of lacking in love for others will not be solved by concentrating on loving them more – my motivation must flow from my pursuit of something higher. (For a more complete representation of my thoughts on this theme, see my post on fruits.)

The solution to the problem of love is the very goal of life, and the very goal of life is Christ-likeness. But if I see in Philippians 2 a call to be more Christ-like primarily by taking on “the very nature of a servant,” and, in so doing, neglect the reason why Christ took on that nature, I have tended the fruit and not the tree. This is a characteristic of legalism. But love is a characteristic of life by the Spirit.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. I John 4:16b-17

[to be continued]