Just finished up Super Week at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas. Jeff Scott, Travis Craver, and their team of really cool interns put on an awesome event. It was basically a youth revival wrapped up in a camp trapped in a Super Summer. The students were divided into teams, did ridiculous cheers, played crazy games all leading into awesome worship led by the band Redwise. God moved powerfully each night with many teenagers finding a new relationship with Jesus. Who says youth revivals are dead? This was one of the coolest events I’ve ever been a part of and I’m so humbled to have been a small part of what God is doing at PDBC. Here is a highlight video of Super Week, which by the way I filmed entirely on an iphone. Those things are stinking amazing. I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
PDBC students, you guys rock! Keep on loving Jesus and Living Weak! Thanks so much for letting me hang out with y’all this week!
I’m still trying to wrap my head around all that I saw and experienced in India. It was such an amazing experience and I am so humbled to have had the opportunity to be a small part of what God is doing in such a dark place. I’ve been home for a week and I’m still having trouble finding words to express what I experienced over there so I think just let pics and video speak for themselves.
Here is promotional video for Asian Partners International
put together by our fearless team leader Coby Colley:
The vision of A.S.S.I. – the ministry we were working with, (it stands for Asian -Hindi word-Hindi word- International) – is to plant churches without attempting to change the culture so their worship services are like nothing I have ever seen. All the worship is in the language of Hindi and the style is typical Indian music. I couldn’t understand a word of it but worshipping with my Indian brothers and sisters was awesome and some of the sweetest worship experiences I have ever had! Here are some pics from some of the house churches we worshipped with. Continue reading →
I just had lunch at the “World Famous” Harold’s Barbecue in Abilene, Texas. In the middle of lunch Harold came out of the kitchen and led the entire restaurant in the Amen Chorus. It was absolutely hilarious and really awesome at the same time. Check out the video.
Actually it’s not 3 billion Indians, it’s 1.17 billion Indians, but who’s counting. You could stand pretty much anywhere in India, take a picture in any direction, and count 500 people. The state of Uttar Pradesh (where we spent most of our time) is roughly the size of Michigan and has over 166 million people in it! Michigan barely has10 million people. I’ve never seen so many people in all my life and God loves every one of them just as much as He loves me, yet almost none of them know it. According the world countries app on my iphone: 80.5% of them are Hindu, 13.4% of them are Muslims, and only 2.3% of them are Christians. You can do the math however you want but no matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of people that don’t know Jesus. In fact, a bunch of them don’t even know who He is! This astounding number of people without Christ was more incredible to me than anything I saw or experienced in India. Don’t get me wrong — the poverty is unbelievable, the living conditions are shocking, and the number of homeless children is heartbreaking, but the sheer number of people who are lost is absolutely overwhelming.
This was no more apparent to me than when we were in the city of Varanassi. Varanassi is basically the Hindu center of the universe. It is the holiest of holy cities for Hindus and an incredibly demonically oppressed city. It is known in mission circles as the “graveyard of missions.” because of the overwhelming Hindu devotion in the area and the many failed attempts to evangelize this city.
While in Varanassi we took a boat ride to witness the Hindu ritual of ceremonial sunrise bathing in the Ganges River. The purpose of the ritual is to offer worship and wash away sin to hopefully appease the gods and get off the cycle of reincarnation by earning a way to heaven. Hindus also wash the bodies of the deceased in this river before they are cremated and then scatter the ashes in the river. Sometimes for various reasons they simply dump the body in the river. All in a vain attempt to attain salvation. It is literally heartbreaking to see people so deceived working so hard to earn the favor of a god or gods that don’t exist.
Below is the video I shot of this ritual. It is pretty raw and for the most part unedited but I think it captures the essence of what we witnessed that day. In it you will see many statues and paintings of false gods as well as people bathing, worshipping, doing laundry, and even brushing their teeth all in the nastiest water you could ever imagine. I must warn you, you will see a dead body being ceremonially washed as well as one floating in the river. It’s not graphic. You can’t see the actual bodies because they’ve been ceremonially wrapped but you’ll know what they are. Check it out:
In spite of the fact that Varnassi is the holiest of holy cities for Hindus, our God is the God of this city and He is sending out workers into this plentiful harvest. In fact, in the last two years 10,000 churches have been started and are thriving in this “graveyard of missions.” God is at work in Varanassi and more than anything our Christian brothers and sisters there need our prayers. So I’ll leave you with a prayer written for the people of Varanassi by my sister-in-law, Holly Nichols, who loves the people of India probably more than I love my own kids.
“I am praying with you right now that the people of India will know their God. That they will exchange the lie for the truth of God and return to worship the Creator instead of the creation. That the rivers and rocks and creation that they have been taught to worship will cry out beside them and join them in worshipping the Creator of all.”
I’m going to INDIA tomorrow!! INDIA – that’s on the other stinkin’ side of the dang world! I know, I looked it up. I actually got out a globe and looked. When we were kids and we tried to dig our way to China in the backyard, we were wrong. We weren’t digging to China, we were digging to India! I am a little concerned about how I am gonna cram my 9 foot legs and my A.D.H.D. brain in an airplane for 14 hours on my flight to the other side of the world but I’m sure that once I’m there that will seem insignificant and petty.
I cannot believe I’m getting to do this. I am so blown away at this opportunity God has dropped in my lap. I’m going with my good friend Coby Colley and Asian Partners International. We’ll be working in New Dehli, Gorakpur, Varanassi, Patna, and several other places I can’t pronounce. We have many things planned but what I am most pumped about is working with the people who minister to the orphan beggars at the rail stations. These are the kids portrayed in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. These kids are horribly abused and forced to beg for money to pay off their pimps. Not sure if that’s what they’re called but somehow it seems fitting. I will be working with the leaders there to help them understand how to talk/minister/reach out to someone who has been abused. If you know my story of childhood sexual abuse then you know this is something I am really thrilled to have the opportunity to do.
I am really excited and somewhat nervous. I’ve done mission work in Mexico and Haiti but I’ve been warned that nothing can prepare me for what I will see in India. I’ll be updating this blog and twittering whenever I can to keep you posted on what is happening so you can pray specifically. Thanks to everyone who is praying and those who provided funding for this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!
I cannot believe how blessed I am to have Matt Gierhart helping me with this whole website redo chaos! Matt is one of my former students from my Youth Minister days who is now older than I was when I was his Youth Minister – trust me its pretty freaky. He is an absolutely freaky talented, internet marketing, trend spotting GuRu who works with big shot corporations all over the stinkin’ world developing their internet something, something and a bunch of other stuff I don’t understand. One of his claims to fame is that he was making money off of twitter 2 years ago! I never even heard of Twitter until 3 weeks ago! And this is the guy helping me set up a “web presence”… whatever that means. I can’t believe how cool it is to see who he has become and how perfectly he has found a way to use his God given talent. Working on this web junk has been a total pain in the patooty but it has been awesome reconnecting with Matt during this process. If you need any help with this kind of stuff check Matt out here: thenewcelebrity.com.
Gierhart and I are about as opposite as two people can get. About the only thing we have common other than our relationship with Jesus is we both totally love to geek out on the video game series, Resident Evil. In fact, he’s the reason I started playing. Anyway, we were sitting around working on my web stuff when we started talking about how incredibly different the two of us are when I said, “dude, I could never do what you do” and he responded with, “and I could never DO what you do.” He’s a totally focused, driven, internet junkie entrepreneur and I’m a spastic A.D.H.D goofball, funny preacher guy. I totally love teenagers and they drive him completely insane. He can’t get up on a stage and use humor to illustrate biblical truth to teenagers and I don’t know jack about a “web presence” and can’t market anything to save my life yet together we are combining our gifts to impact teenagers for Christ! Gierhart will have a hand in any life that is touched as a result of this blog. He’ll have a hand in any life changed at any event I speak at because of this website. It is one of the coolest illustrations of the Body of Christ I may have ever seen. Just another really cool thing God is teaching me during this wacky 2k9 plan B summer.
That’s it. I’m out. I’m about to sneak off and geek out on some Resident Evil 5 with my old/new buddy Matt!
This has been one of the most jacked up years ever! My ministry schedule was basically empty for most of the Spring and I only had 2 camps booked for this summer – down from a normal 6 or 7. For a long time I tried to blame this on “today’s wintry economic climate” because it was easier than admitting that God was trying to get my attention. Somewhere around March I quit being so ding dang hard headed and accepted the fact that I couldn’t continue to blame the economy for my empty schedule because if God’s hand was still on my ministry then the economy wouldn’t matter. So I started practicing what I preach and started digging into the Word – searching- seeking- praying- trying to wrap my head around what it was God was trying to teach me. Over time I begin to realize that at least part of what God was trying to teach me was humility. Which is not a fun lesson to learn especially the 2nd, 3rd, or 29th time! Anyway I got it in my head that if I just humbled myself and let people know that my schedule was empty then God would open the heavens, the phone would start ringing, and everything would get back to normal. So I made a video titled “Runks Summer 2k9 plan B”, emailed it to a bunch of Student Ministers, and waited to see what happened. Here’s the video I sent out……
As you can probably imagine, it generated a lot of response, just not the response I was looking for. I got lots of positive feedback, encouragement, and funny emails but no bookings. What really surprised me was how many of my friends called to see if I was OK. It caught me off guard because at the time I was honestly just trying to make a funny video, humble myself, and do what I thought God was leading me to do but when I look at it now I can see the reasons for their concern. I can hear the desperation in my voice and see the fear in my eyes. I have a tendency to be glass half-empty guy. I don’t like it. I’d pay money not to be that way but because of the abuse in my past when things get bad I tend to freak out and think the world is coming to an end. I know that’s crazy but sometimes that’s my reality and that’s exactly what was going on when I made that video. I still think the video is funny and have no doubt that I was being obedient to God when I sent it out but at the time I was literally freaking out. I was so worried that my days as an evangelist were over and that God was done with me. I know that’s pretty extreme but I’m just being honest.
The crazy thing is, that stupid video turned out to be the catalyst God used to turn things around. My plan B turned out to be a stepping stone to get me to God’s plan A. Out of nowhere, God dropped the opportunity of a lifetime in my lap. A friend of mine, that saw the video, called and asked me to pray about going on a two week mission trip to India in July! I told him I’d pray about it but I knew from the second he called that this was part of God’s plan for me. The day after that a former student of mine from my Youth Minister days who is an internet marketing Guru offered to help me come up with a new marketing strategy, redesign my website, and start this blog. I thought for a while that I was supposed to write a book this summer but I think this is taking the place of that for now. I can already tell that this blog is going to be good for me and hopefully offer some hope and help to others. Then through a series of crazy events, God made it clear that I needed to leave the agency that had done my booking for 5 years and go back to doing my own booking. Nothing against the agency, I just wanted to get back to a ministry based approached where we discuss, dream, and plan for ministry before money, contracts, and all that junk ever come up. This is where lesson number 2 came in: Re-learning to trust God for everything. Once again, God has reminded me that I cannot depend on my talent, my gifts, or a big shot booking agency to make this ministry a success. I’ve simply got to put my trust in Him and not in myself. I’ve learned this before but somewhere along the way I got wrapped up in ME and forgot about it.
And then I went to Super Summer Arkansas. An event that could have easily been an ego trip deluxe but I went there broken and humbled with a renewed trust in God as my provider and it proved to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Every compliment I received, every student that was saved, every life that was changed – rather than stroking my ego brought me to my knees. The entire time I was there I kept pinching myself because I just could not and cannot believe that God was letting me speak at such an awesome event. A young youth minister friend of mine that knows my situation bought every one of my meals at the time-honored tradition of late night dining after worship at youth camp. It was so humbling for him to do that for me but also an absolutely incredible blessing! And then on Wednesday afternoon of that week, I booked the first event I’ve booked myself in 5 years. We shared ideas, dreamed dreams and made a plan for what is going to be an awesome event. Afterwards, I went outside, called my wife, and wept like a baby. I kept saying over and over, “Its not over. Its not over. Its not over! God is not done with us. He’s got more for us to do.” That may seem silly to some but I can’t tell you how awesome it is to know and believe again that God is not finished with me – that He has more for me to do.
Its been a crazy year and an even crazier summer but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wouldn’t want to go through it again but I wouldn’t trade for what God has done in my life. My schedule is still a little thin but God is meeting our needs and I’m not worried about it anymore. I’m just going to stay focused on being broken, humble, and faithful and do whatever I can to meet the needs of every hurting teenager God places in front of me.
I’ll leave with you with the words of a rap from Will Smith which oddly enough seems to fit here:
“I got my X-ray vision through all in my way. No Plan B, it distracts from Plan A.”
No more plan B for me. I’ll stick to God’s Plan A. Its safer there and a lot more fun.