Sunday, August 16, 2009

Welcome STINTers!

Welcome 2009 STINTers! I'm sitting here in the meeting room at Copper. Kevin just finished a great talk on the love of the Lord, and I'm listening along with you to Deb talking about Loving Your Team. (She had ringworm!) On behalf of the whole WSN leadership team, we are so excited about God's work in your life and the fact that we, together, are going to the world. There are about 250 of you going to about 50 different strategic location, with about 2 millions students. The Mission you've accepted: help bring the reality of Jesus to as many as students as possible. Trust God to plant spiritual movements among those who have never heard of Jesus. Raise up national leaders who will demonstrate and preach the gospel for a lifetime. Be a blessing to the nation and people that you will live among this year.

This is all impossible, without the Lord. But with God, all things are possible. He is choosing the ridiculous - you! - to make His glory known. Isn't it cool to be not only rescued by God, but to be given the role to be involved in rescuing others from darkness into light. Obviously, He does the rescuing, but you are His ambassador of the truth of the light of the gospel.

We hope this blog will be a place for you to gain encouragement from the stories of God at work around the world from your teams, to pray for those fellow stinters who are trusting God for audacious faith filled dreams, to laugh at some of the funny things that Matt Mikalatos (Greater Northwest WSN RD) seems to randomly pull off of youtube or out of his wacky brain, and also to get information that we think could be helpful, sometimes even essential, for you on STINT. So, you might want to set this up to come to your email automatically when we post, or just make it your 5th L, Look at the STINT blog. For now, if you have a cool story you want to post or a prayer request for everyone to hear.

And in honor of Deb's great video clip on working as a team:

We look forward to staying in touch this year.
Keith Bubalo
WSN National Director

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I finally know that I belong....

For those of you who started your stint year in August or September, you're finally reaching that time of year where you might find that you're starting to "normalize" in your new culture. Maybe you hit bottom around the holidays and now you're discovering that you have good and bad days... just like... like, uh... like home.

What's more, as the end of the (stint) year rapidly approaches you'll start realizing that there are things about this culture that are YOURS and you want to take it home with you. Or maybe you realize that this is home more than the good Ol' US of A.

As for me, I like songs that put a smile on my face and remind me of how I'm feeling today. And so, allow me to introduce you to Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele and "Oh, Paris!"

Friday, January 2, 2009


At this time of year, I typically find myself thinking about what I would like for the next year to look like. I long ago gave up New Year's resolutions, not being able to make most of them last past about 2 weeks. But I'm still a future thinker more than a reflective one. I look down the road far easier and more often than reflect upon where I've come from. But in that, I am missing something important.

I was reading a few days ago from a devotional book by Charles Spurgeon, where he mentions 1 Samuel 7:12, "Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us".

Maybe you've sung the phrase before from the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and wondered about that phrase, "Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I've come." There are 2 words we don't often use anymore - "Ebenezer" and "hither".

The Ebenezer is literally "a stone of help".
It's Samuel's version of the more familiar memorial stones that Joshua pulled from the Red Sea to celebrate God's faithful provision to Israel as they made it through the 40 year journey and crossed into the Promised Land to a new life, a new beginning. Samuel raises the stone and says to all Israel, remember how God has worked in your midst up until this very moment.

As you start the New Year, before you think about what you want 2009 to look like, take some time by yourself and with your team, and raise your own Ebenezer. Like a giant road marker/monument, recount to yourself and one another all the various ways that God has shown Himself to be your provider, shepherd, warrior, lover, redeemer, and more.

While there is always much to anticipate and plan for in the future - goals to achieve, trips to take, decisions to make - these markers, this "stone of help", will provide the spiritual context you and I need to move forward with gratitude and hope in our hearts for the journey God has us for us in the days ahead. Stopping in our present, to remember our past, helps us make more sense out of our future. It forces us to hear and learn from God where He fits in this picture, and how He is the one who is watches over our ways.

There, now you can add "Ebenezer" to your vocabulary. I still wouldn't use "hither". Just leave it alone.

May the road for 2009 bring you a richer experience of the mercy and grace of God.

Friday, December 26, 2008

STINT Survey and the Christmas Conference

I've been thinking alot about you stinters scattered around the world. I know that the Christmas season is often a great time for sharing the hope that you have in Jesus, and I pray that you have seen God revealing Himself to friends that you have been making over the past weeks and months.

I'm sure you are all praying as well for the 10,000+ students who are attending Christmas Conferences beginning tomorrow. Did you know the Bridges Conference has over 800 international students attending, their largest conference ever. Imagine the impact of that as they return to their campuses, and to their nations in the years ahead.

As you pray for all of those who are attending conferences, I know you are hopeful that God will touch the hearts of hundreds and thousands of students with a passion for God and His heart for the nations. You might remember that the first night of the Briefing Conference I shared about Moses and his encounter with God in the burning bush. Well, your surveys about why you came on STINT were evidence of the reality of the burning bush experiences of which you shared that night. 93% of you said that one of the most important factors in deciding to come on STINT was hearing from God in His word and prayer. A friend's counsel, a summer project trip, and vision for your campuses' partnership location were all very significant as well.

It seems to me that the Christmas and Winter conference environment is where a lot of these factors intersect. Meeting with God, hearing about the mission, encouragement from friends, and a chance to go overseas for a summer are all part of the conference environment.

But here is what the stint survey also revealed; only about 5% of you made the decision to STINT while at the conference. 28% made that decision after the conference in January and February. At first I was surprised, but then I realize how good this really is. It shows a reflective process is occurring. There is also the fact that 65% of you said the challenge of raising support was one of your biggest barriers to stinting. The specter of raising $40,000 in 3 months tends to cause one to check a few times if that was really God they heard in the bush, or was it just passing emotionalism.

I pass this along though so that we put our hope in God for what He wants to do in raising up additional stinters. No doubt your experience is proving what Jesus told his disciples 2000 years ago: "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few." Wherever you are on STINT, and regardless of the current results, one message always cries out: We Need More Help!

Jesus' solution was to "pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into His Harvest." Put into the example of Moses from Exodus, let's pray that 10,000 students will be "turn aside" to see, listen to, and respond to God as He reveals Himself, and His heart for each one of them to be fulfilled in His Kingdom purpose for their lives. If that happens, I'm sure God will call many to labor alongside of you as STINTers this coming year. (And the rest who don't can support you!)

And my prayer for you is that you will experience God's refreshing touch upon your life in the days ahead, with hope in your heart for how He wants to work in your life this coming year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lessons from the Wild II (Devotion)

The rhino, as any fan of The Gods must be Crazy, knows is the self-appointed fire prevention officer of the jungle.   But maybe there are a few facts of the Rhinoceros that you might not be aware of and can apply to live & ministry on STINT. 

A group of Rhinos is called a crash.  The reason is because a Rhino runs 30 miles an hour but can only see 30 feet in front of them.  (Props to Erwin McManus for this insight.) This propensity for running into things is perhaps why God created Rhinos with thick skin and gave them one or two horns depending on the species.  

Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:18  says, 'we fix our eyes on what is unseen rather than what we can see' and in the next chapter adds 'we live by faith and not by sight'.  What if we charged through life like Paul and his buddies, like a crash of Rhinos - full force, break-neck speed, by faith, not worrying about what we can see with our limited eyesight?   We don't have a horn and we're not pachyderms (though some of us are thick-skinned & some thick-sculled) but we have the same promise that enabled Paul to live & minister this way.  It's a promise of the coming resurrection; a promise that while this measly aging body will waste away its not the end.  

We can be pressed down but we are not crushed.  We can be perplexed but we are never in despair.  We might be persecuted but we will not be abandoned.  We possibly could be struck down but we will not be destroyed.  Life, eternal life, real life is guaranteed so we can charge ahead like Rhinos - full of faith.

Another little tidbit about Rhinos is their symbiotic relationship with the oxpecker.  The oxpecker feeds off of parasites that live on the Rhino.  And it seems like they get the best of them because they get a little of the Rhino's blood when they remove ticks or whatnot.  But with the Rhino's myopia, he knows that danger is near when the oxpeckers fly away.  (The rhino also has amazing sense of smell and hearing but those facts blur my analogy so ignore them.) 

It's teamwork in action.  Where the Rhino is limited, the oxpecker is strong.  When the Rhino might not even know there are little guys beneath the thick skin slowing sucking life away, the oxpecker shows up for a groom and a snack.  For the Rhino, while sacrificing a little blood in the process, this relationship saves his hide.  For the oxpecker he gets lunch and a free wild ride.

 In the same way of God's created order in the wild, He has placed you together as a team for a purpose.  It's no accident you are together. Everyone has a role.  Sometimes the role is defined: team leader, person who handles finances, team prayer leader, buyer of snacks for socials, etc.  But sometimes the roles are undefined.  Maybe one of you is the team encourager speaking life into others.  Perhaps you are the one God has gifted with humor who brings light moments to heavy ones.  Perhaps you are the team servant joyfully serving others and not wanting to draw attention to yourself. Maybe you're 'the team mom' caring for others when they are sick or 'big brother' looking out for others and making sure folks are safe.

Do you really believe that God has uniquely made everyone on your team and brought you together for a purpose?  Everyone!   Do you just accept each other's differences or do you appreciate them?  Or maybe you are just still back at the stage of being aware that you are not alike or acknowledging these differences but just trying to tolerate one another.  How often do you say, "God I am so thankful that this person is on my team and that you made them different than me.  They might even bug me at times but I need them... I need those who are thick-skinned.  I need the bloodsuckers, too.  I need every person on this team and they need me."   

We need each other to forge ahead by faith as a crash of Rhinos.

Another Resource

There is a new on-line resource for evangelistic materials in several languages.  It's Gospel Translations and already has articles in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.  It's set up like a wiki so if your translation skills are worthy you can add to the tool or maybe a student you are discipling would like to contribute.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

There’s nothing like holidays overseas to make you feel isolated, creepy and angry. It’s weird that no one on your team does them the same way you do (“What do you mean you eat cranberry sauce out of a can?”). I remember my first Thanksgiving at Krista’s family’s house when I discovered they were about to throw away the dark meat of the turkey. They insist it was a joke but I was pretty scared for a minute.

These feelings are intensified overseas, and the next five weeks--Thanksgiving through New Year’s—can be the most difficult part of a stint year. You are experiencing culture shock, miss your family, and your team seems suddenly to represent another culture, too… a culture that opens gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

Then you start looking at the culture. They think it’s bizarre that you celebrate a day of thankfulness by gorging yourself on over-sized birds and cranberries and smashed potatoes. They don’t understand why you want Christmas Day off from your classes. They don’t see why missing your family on this Thursday is different from any other day of the year. You feel out of place, out of sorts and out of strength.

Here’s a scripture I hope will encourage you:

“…they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country which they had left they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were looking forward to a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Remember, you are not only a stranger to this culture you are living in now, but to the culture of the entire world. A day is coming when you can be “home” at last, when you will be with the Most Beloved One, in his home, celebrating every holyday together with him. In that day we won’t feel alone anymore, won’t be worn out from life in this world and won’t find ourselves adrift and without hope ever again.

So, take a break here and there, make sure you are rested. Give your family and friends a call for the holidays. But don’t forget that you are a stranger where you are in the same way that you would be a stranger in the United States… you are a citizen of a greater kingdom, the Heavenly one. In the meantime, celebrate with your teammates or other believers; that’s a pretty good preview of the New Jerusalem to come.