Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reflecting on EWLT

This reflection is long over due, but here it is.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.                                                            Isaiah 64.8

When God was forming me He said, “This one will not be content indoors.”  He designed me with a profound affection for creation.  I long to be outside and experience my most intimate communion with God in the wild. 

I remember one of my friends asking me if I wanted to apply to Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting & Adventure Company while in college.  My response was, “they pay you to take people on the river, on the rocks and in the backcountry?  Where do I sign up?”  The trials I faced in the Colorado backcountry that summer forged my relationship with Jesus and I have since desired to start an outdoor ministry.

During the summer of 2006, I joined Daryl Phillips on the Wilderness Leadership Training (WLT) and the dream for a European WLT was birthed in my heart.  In retrospect, the solitude was more of a joy than a trial and I knew that God was calling me to bring the same type of experience to Europe.

In 2007, we launched our first Euro Wilderness Leadership Training (EWLT).  Like everything else in Europe, I knew it would have its unique challenges and need to be adapted to the culture.  However, seven students participated and each one met Jesus in a personal and intimate way. 

This year, two students returned from the 2007 expedition and three others joined us including one high school student. From the 4th to the 10th of August we sought solitude in a lush drainage above the famous “Valley of the Martyrs”, silhouetted by the glorious Mon Viso (12,600’).  We extended the trip from three days of solitude to five, with three days of fasting and one entire day of silence.  Fasting for so long was, by far, the greatest trial for the Italians because of their love for food. 

One of the highlights of the trip was co-leading with Andrea Testa, one of our pastors in training, who returned from last years trip.  I had been on furlough in the US until just three weeks before we left for the EWLT.  Andrea’s oversight and preparations for the trip while I was away were critical to its success. 

The longer period of fasting and solitude proved to be significant to the students.  Many had a significant breakthrough towards intimacy with God on the fourth day of the expedition.   For one student, intimacy came as God was able to strip him of his fears and preoccupations (Psalm 34:6) so that He could speak deeply into his heart (Romans 8:16).  For another young lady, God exposed her sin and pride leaving her wonderfully vulnerable before Him.  Not only has it changed how she enters God’s presence but it has also helped her to be more sincere in her relationship with others. 

Personally, I met Jesus in an intimate way after I woke up from a nightmare on the third night.  Then, as an act of His grace, He MIRACULOUSLY healed my camera after I had made a costly error. He gave me the following promise: “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, … the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called (Isaiah 54.4,5b). God showed me that He wants me to be an agent of grace in Italy, where shame in relationships is thick and forgiveness is rare.

Andrea and I are praying about offering two EWLT trips next year so that Europeans from other churches can meet God through this unique experience.  Since our trips are co-ed, we would like to invite a female to help us plan the next trip. A final thought is to that we would like to offer more guidance on spiritual training as a part of the preparation for each participant in EWLT. 

Rooted & Founded in Love

I am very hopeful regarding this ministry season but also deeply stretched.  The greatest challenge before me is how to continue to entrust the ministry to faithful men & women leaving them with reproducible concepts and the ever deepening reality of just how much God is "head over heals in love with them."  

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, 

O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, 

I counseled with three students yesterday, all of whom lead at some capacity at il rifugio and I was a little shocked just how rare it is for them to pass time with Jesus and just receive His love.  Could you please pray for our community as I prepare to speak on spiritual warfare this Sunday?  Pray that the students would be awakened to the battle for hearts and that they would embrace God's love for them and take it to their friends and family.

Refocusing Our Serving Core

UPDATE on “il rifugio”

Please pray for il rifugio to continue mature in “delighting itself in the Lord.”

As for current ministry at il rifugio, this past week eleven of the key ministry leaders at il rifugio, myself and three other missionaries met to prepare for this new year of ministry.  This was a chance to restate our mission and clearly lay out the vision for the upcoming season.  God's vision for our community this season is to be "an active body where everyone is necessary" (see Romans 12.4-6 & Col 1.18).  We are trying to involve everyone in what God is doing in, through and to “il rifugio”.  Therefore we re-amped our community groups (there are now four at il rifugio) and personally invited each person to be a part of the eight to ten ministries that comprise “il rifugio”. 

After the summer fade, it was obvious that we needed to regroup.  We spent time focusing on Matthew 22:37-40 and 28:19-20.  We talked about the need to reach up to God (loving God), reach in to the family of God (loving others) and reach out to the world (making disciples), and how this must permeate each ministry at il rifugio.  We talked about how practical this is and how we can accomplish this through the next 4 months of activities.

We adopted a threefold strategy of how to reach out that Doug Cecil suggests in 7 Prinicples of Evangelistic Lifestyle.  We will spend about a five weeks in the following areas: cultivating relationships, seeding hearts with Word and harvesting by inviting people to trust Jesus.  Some of the students got it. Our leaders excitedly shared their ideas about how we could reach out practically.  One Chinese believer was very excited with renewed focus and some practical steps to accomplish God's vision during this season of ministry.  Another believer, who drove two hours after work just to be with us, was encouraged and wants to implement this in the community group he oversees.  Would you please pray for each of these key leaders: Andrea, Angelo, Tony, Dadie, Leo, Checco, Ben, Amelia, Erin, Kristen and Carmen.  Pray that God would inspire them to accomplish His vision and they would be faithful and passionate in responding to His lead.