Sunday, February 17, 2008

Coming up for air....

Gasp. Gasp. Deep breath. The last six weeks have been a crazy ride!
We arrived back in Austin late last night and I slept in my own cozy bed for the first time in 6 weeks. ahhhhh. We were away from our "new" home for so long that I forgot some of the little idiosyncrasies about our house, like the fact that the hot and cold handles are switched on the sink in our master bathroom. It took me a few minutes of standing at the sink this morning waiting for the water to warm up before I remembered. The one thing that I didn't forget is all the mess and boxes still waiting to be unpacked and organized. Time doesn't erase all things.

For those of you who have forgotten (in the gap of entries the past 6 weeks!) what we were returning from, we ventured down to Daytona Beach, FL where I joined over 125 other new staff for our New Staff Training conference for Campus Crusade for Christ.

I had every intention of writing updates while we were away and sharing the progression of my experiences at New Staff Training. As those of you that have clicked on my blog in recent weeks in search of an update know, I wrote exactly zero entries while we were away. I wish I could say that my blog is the only thing I neglected these past six weeks. But, in addition to getting reacquainted with our house, I need to get caught up on the lives of some of my friends! I have been so consumed with the intense schedule of New Staff Training these past weeks that I didn't have time for anything much beyond classes, eating, and not enough sleep! It was a full 5 weeks of training, learning, and development. I completed two graduate level seminary classes in two weeks: Doctrine Survey and Bible Study Methods. For those two weeks, I was in class for 4.5 hours in the morning and the rest of my day was filled with 6-7 hours of reading and assignments. I definitely saw more of my books than the beach! It was week three of training before my toes even touched the sand. For those of you who are wondering if I came back tan, the answer is definitely not! We actually had a lot of rain and chilly weather to go with our busy schedule. But, we did do a little bit of exploring on our few free days and I look forward to sharing some pictures of our adventures throughout the coming week! Though we did lack for warm & sunny pool worthy days, we did not lack for beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. There is always a peace that stirs the soul in beholding such beauty. "The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. The universe was made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it. Nothing less will do....'The heavens are telling of the glory of God.' (Psalm 19:1)....We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self." -John Piper

I struggle to accurately summarize all of the challenges, thoughts & experiences of my time at NST. But, there are two highlights that I want to share....two times that stand out in my mind as I think back over the last 6 weeks.

During our first week, we heard a series of talks from national team leaders within Campus Crusade. It was a week of encouragement, inspiration, developing a clearer vision of our calling to campus ministry and getting our hearts in tune with what God had for us in the following weeks. On Friday night, the week wrapped up with a Heritage Night full of pictures and stories that shared the rich heritage of how God has used Campus Crusade for Christ for His kingdom work over the last 56 years. Our guest for the evening was Vonette Bright, who co-founded Campus Crusade with her husband, the late Bill Bright. Bill & Vonette started Campus Crusade in 1951 at UCLA and took huge leaps of faith as they trusted the Lord, selling Bill's successful candy business to embark on a new journey of full time ministry and depending on God to meet their needs. Through an interview, Vonette shared her amazing story of how God has used and blessed her ministry with Bill through the years. I remember thinking as I sat there and listened to her story that she has experienced more in her lifetime than many people dare to dream. There are a handful of people that we meet in life that instantly endear themselves to our heart, and Vonette is definitely one of the unique few with a sweet spirit that makes you fall in love with her in minutes. She is honest and frank, funny, strong willed yet humble, extremely wise in both life experience and the Word, and quite with it for her age! It was such a blessing to hear from Vonette and have a chance to hold her hand and speak with her following the session.

We also had an opportunity later in the training to visit the Campus Crusade for Christ headquarters at Lake Hart in Orlando for a day. During our tour of the headquarters (which I had no idea were so large!) we had a chance to visit the offices and studio of the Jesus Film Project. The goal of the Jesus Film project is to reach every nation, tribe, people and tongue, helping them to see and hear the story of Jesus in a language they can understand. The Jesus Film has been viewed more than 6 billion times since 1979, is the most translated film in history with translations for over 1,000 languages, and has been seen in every country of the world. We saw a demonstration of the in-depth process they use to dub over the new languages keeping an incredibly accurate voice to lip match, as well as the laborious process that is involved to have a native speaker of each language or dialect record the script. In many remote villages, it is the first movie or first exposure to media that the people have experienced. During one viewing, the people were so moved by the sight of Jesus' torture & crucifixion that arrows and spears began flying through the projector screen as they responded, not fully comprehending that what they were seeing in that moment was only a film. During our tour, we watched a video about a couple that financially sponsored a translation to an African dialect and their journey to the village to experience the first showing of the Jesus Film in that language. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the faces of the tribal people respond to the life of Jesus as it unfolded before their eyes. Even in full time ministry, it is far too easy to forget, amidst the busyness of our daily lives, that God is working in huge & miraculous ways across the world each and every day.

I returned from New Staff Training with a lot of books & knowledge, a better understanding of the ministry God has called me to be a part of, quite a few pictures, and some new friends. The one thing I am missing is a t-shirt reading "I Survived New Staff Training." Now, it's time to tackle another thing that was neglected while we were away....

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