Studying Abroad on Mission: A Fresh Perspective for Your Semester Abroad

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View this article at: https://www.cru.org/communities/campus/blog/2015/study-abroad-on-mission.html

 

What comes to mind when you think about studying abroad during college? Perhaps you think of seeing the world, traveling to a new location, making great friends, or the stereotypical idea of ‘living it up’ during a semester overseas. What if you rethought all the clichés of a traditional study abroad experience, and looked at it as an opportunity to live on mission?

Around the world right now, millions of college students in a variety of cultures are going to and from classes, eating in school cafeterias, and hanging out with their friends, but many have never heard the name of Jesus before. As you leave your everyday college commitments behind you to study in another country, you will most likely have a surprising amount of free time on your hands. What if you could maximize that time by helping reach every tribe, nation and tongue with the Gospel in the country you are studying in? You may even be the first person to ever share the Good News with one of those students, all the while earning credit for your required school classes!

So what, might you ask does it look like to study abroad with the intention of furthering the Gospel? Here are a few practical ways you could do so:

Go With Vision: Instead of viewing your study abroad experience as just earning some school credits in another country, go with a specific vision and intention to live on mission. A student named Jenn from George Mason University spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy sharing the Gospel with Italian students. Jenn put it beautifully in saying that, “As Christ followers, we are called to spread the Good News and reach the nations. You are already being sent to the nations to study, so why not share with the locals the news that will changes their lives forever?” Before Jenn left America for Florence, she knew that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of fellow students. She shared with me that, “it’s important to go into your study abroad experience knowing that you want to be involved in the Great Commission somehow, because once you’re overseas, it’s easy to get distracted, and before you know it you’re on a plane home back to the US.” So before going, be sure to leave with a clear vision in mind to live intentionally for the Kingdom during your brief time abroad.

Work Alongside a Local Church or Ministry: Before you go to the country you are studying in, research different local organizations, missionary groups and churches you can come along side while there. Both Jenn and another student named Mackenzie (who also studied in Florence) contacted their leaders with Cru, a Christian organization on college campuses, asking if they could be connected to someone with Cru in Florence. They were introduced to a local missionary, and they worked together all semester creating unique platforms to share the Gospel with Italians. Research all your options before leaving, and see which local organizations and churches you can come alongside to help share the Gospel in the culture you’re studying in.

Continue Sharing Your Faith After Returning Home: You might think to yourself, how can I make a difference in someone’s life in such a short period of time? It is true that just one semester or summer overseas is a brief time, however, we have one thing on our side in this day in age: social media. Your semester abroad could be just the beginning of a life-long friendship with someone from another culture. As you return home, you can continue to process the Gospel with them, work through a Bible study together and grow your friendship through Facebook, Skype and other social media avenues. Leaving the country only means changing your strategy to reach the people you have met, not the end of the relationship.”

Prepare for Personal Growth: Ministering cross-culturally is no easy task. It can be hard work to step over cultural boundaries, leave your comfort zone, and share the Gospel in an unfamiliar context. But we often experience great personal growth in times of discomfort and difficulty. A student named Reid who studied abroad on mission in East Asia said, “Before I went, I understood the Gospel, but God stretches and challenges you while you’re overseas. He showed me how deep his love is, and I personally began to experience the Gospel in a real way during my time sharing it with students in East Asia.” As you study abroad on mission, be prepared for God to grow you more and more into His likeness. God will not only stretch you as you reach out to others, but He will grow your personal relationship with Him in new ways. Cling to the truth of the Gospel, live intentionally, and step out in expectant faith while you study abroad on mission. It will be a life changing experience!

*If you would like to learn more about a specific program that helps mobilize students to study abroad on mission, check out: cruabroad.com.

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Shining Like Lights

Over the past week, I have been processing the upcoming Christmas season, and thinking about the importance of not getting caught up in the consumeristic mindset of the holiday. I have brainstormed some ways that I can be intentional not to do so, because I easily get swept up in the current of more, more, more. As believers we have an amazing opportunity to show the world why Jesus came and what the true meaning of the holiday is. The other day, I let my fingers hit the keyboard and ended up producing a little “guide” on how we can keep things in perspective over the next month. I hope that this can be helpful for you too!

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A constant struggle Christians face is looking different than the world around us. So often it’s easier to blend into the culture than to stand out and go against the flow. The holiday season specifically brings this battle to the forefront for us. More and more things vie for our conformity during this time of year. But our call as believers said perfectly by Paul is this: To be blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation’”, and it is then that we will “shine as lights in the world” around us (Philippians 2:15).

Our patience, grace and love toward others need to be evaluated all the more during the Christmas season. Holidays often bring out the worst in people don’t they? Lines at the grocery store, mad dashes for gifts, difficult family reunions- all things that can stretch us and test us. As Christ-followers, we desperately need to look different from the hurting world around us. If we resemble everyone else, what hope do we have to offer that satisfaction is found in something much greater than the here and now? How can we display the glory of our beautiful Savior; the one in which the season is about in the first place?

So how do we “shine like lights” in a broken and hopeless world this holiday season? Here are five ways we can stand out over the next month:

  1. Bestow the Gift of Grace: The measure of grace we give others often directly reflects that which we receive and experience for ourselves. We are pushed to our limits more during the holiday season. We tend to become impatient with lines, preparations, and people’s shortcomings. If we begin our day without understanding that Jesus’ birth and death on the cross was for us and our sins, how can we extend grace to others when they fail or frustrate us? We need to remember that the Gospel is applicable for us personally each day. Before beginning your day, get in the Word and preach the Gospel to yourself. Rely on the Holy Spirit, bath yourself in Christ’s love, and seek to give the grace and love you have received first (1 John 4:9 “We love he first loved us”).
  1. Seek to Give First this Season: The average Joe huffs and puffs at the long line in Starbucks, angrily stomps through a crowd in frustration, and argues with the person trying to buy the last product on the shelf. What if we, as believers think first about how we can bless, encourage and uplift the people we encounter. Whether it’s buying a stranger coffee in a coffee shop or encouraging the exhausted store clerk, continually think about ways to give and display Christ’s love to those around you. Maybe it looks like getting involved in a gift-giving program such as, Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child. Or possibly baking cookies for your neighbors or mailman. Whatever it may be, strive to give first before receiving this holiday season.
  1. Meditate on Christ’s Coming and Life: As Christians, we all know the real “reason for the season”, however in the hustle and bustle of everything, we can easily lose sight of it. Leading up to Christmas day, take additional time to meditate on Christ’s coming, birth and ministry. Study the Gospels or read an Advent devotional. Carefully examine the way Christ loved people. Understand His sacrifice in a new way. Striving to keep Christ before us in the midst of shopping, gift-wrapping and planning will help us keep a right perspective and attitude.
  1. Allow Room for Mending: Often holidays bring up the reality of broken relationships, heart-wrenching losses, and other hurts that we suddenly cannot run from. Instead of ignoring the heartache you’re experience, take time to process it and allow Jesus to meet you in that place. If there are any broken relationships between you and a loved one, seek restoration if you can. As Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Are there any fragmented relationships that you need to take steps toward this holiday season? Or do you have losses in your life you need to grieve? Don’t avoid them, but rather lean into them and allow yourself the opportunity work through the pain.
  1. Do Not Go At it Alone: With everything in the Christian life, we were not created to do things alone. We are called to fight together. Besides, isn’t everything more fun with a friend? Encourage one another to experience Jesus afresh this season. Process the heartache of broken relationships. Collaborate with a group of friends to do a service project or buy gifts for those in need. What if we, as the body of Christ seek to be set apart through loving and serving the disheartened world around? As we shine like bright lights in the darkness, we could be used by our Savior to transform lives this Christmas season.

With All Your Heart, Love the Lord

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A friend sent me this brief devotional today from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and it was such a beautiful reminder to me. It is a challenge to each and every one of us as we seek to share the Gospel with others. So often I tend to become frustrated when I don’t see results from the “ministry” I am doing. As I was reading this morning in the book of Mark, one of the religious leaders challenged Jesus by asking Him what the greatest commandment is. Jesus replied simply, but yet the significance of His few words are profound.

He answered them, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no greater commandment than these.” – Mark 12:29-31. God cares above all that we love Him with our whole being. As Chambers states in his devotional, the challenge for the missionary (those who follow Jesus) is not as much about whether or not people come to faith through our ministry, but rather about our own personal relationship with God and our hearts’ disposition toward Him. This is a great heart check for all who follow Jesus:

“Jesus Christ did not say, “Go and save souls” (the salvation of souls is the supernatural work of God), but He said, “Go . . . make disciples of all the nations . . . .” Yet you cannot make disciples unless you are a disciple yourself. When the disciples returned from their first mission, they were filled with joy because even the demons were subject to them. But Jesus said, in effect, “Don’t rejoice in successful service— the great secret of joy is that you have the right relationship with Me” (see Luke 10:17-20). The missionary’s great essential is remaining true to the call of God, and realizing that his one and only purpose is to disciple men and women to Jesus. Remember that there is a passion for souls that does not come from God, but from our desire to make converts to our point of view.

The challenge to the missionary does not come from the fact that people are difficult to bring to salvation, that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, or that there is a barrier of callous indifference. No, the challenge comes from the perspective of the missionary’s own personal relationship with Jesus Christ— “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). Our Lord unwaveringly asks us that question, and it confronts us in every individual situation we encounter. The one great challenge to us is— do I know my risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit? Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus Christ has said? Or am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary? If I follow any other method, I depart altogether from the methods prescribed by our Lord— “All authority has been given to Me . . . . Gotherefore. . .” (Matthew 28:18-19).”

http://utmost.org

A Word on Music: Unique Worship to Move the Soul

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I don’t know about you, but I love music! Music truly moves my soul. It propels me into worship nearly every time I hear it. Whether it’s the strum of a guitar, a beautiful singing voice, keys on the piano, or the incredible manner in which words are written to flow with a melody, it moves me.

I have recently discovered a new hobby of creating playlists on Spotify. I wanted to share one of my playlists with you, particularly if you are looking for more unique worship music. Some people have expressed to me in the past few months that while they enjoy popular and mainstream worship music, they desire something a little more off the beaten path. I have felt similar to that at times, so I decided to create an “Acoustic Christian” playlist. I have found some artists who have incredible talent, but fly much more under the radar. So if you are looking for music that will move you to worship, search for my “Acoustic Christian” playlist on Spotify!

Some artist and songs that have been ministering to me recently are:

– Audrey Assad:I Shall Not Want” and “You Speak”

– King’s Kaleidoscope: “Grace Alone”

– Dispatch: “How Deep the Father’s Love”

– All Sons and Daughters: “Christ Be All Around Me” 

– Leeland: “Refresh Me” and “Where You Are”

– Jenny and Tyler: “Abide” 

– Enter The Worship Circle: “Hold Me Near”, “You are Mine” and “No One Else”

– Judah and The Lion: “Torn Apart” and “Fill This House”

– The Endfield Hymn Sessions: “Jesus I My Cross Have Taken”

– Starfield: “Son of God” and “Cry in My Heart”

– Rend Collective Experiment: “Immeasurably More” and “My Lighthouse”

– Sojourn: “In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross”

– Young Oceans: “Come To Us O Lord”

– Eleowen: “Cripple Me” and “Save Me”

– New Life Worship: “Ascribe”

The Unnatural Art of Contentment: Relevant Magazine

Here’s the link to my article. RELEVANT is a wonderful site that talks about life, culture, God and the current world around us. Check out other articles on there!

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/unnatural-art-contentment

It may be a cliche, but it’s true: We always want what we can’t (or just don’t) have.

One person may look at your life and think, “Wow, you have a nice car or a stable job or a great house, you must be content.” But at the same time, you’re probably looking at their life thinking the very same thing about something they have that you don’t. We are each continually longing for the next thing, be it a spouse or putting down roots somewhere or a better job or the next vacation.

Contentment—whether with our living situation, salary, relationship status or whatever else—doesn’t come naturally. It’s something we have to actively cultivate.

God has shown me over the past year what it looks like to fight to be content every day. I use the word “fight” because I believe that learning to be content is just that. I believe it to be one of the biggest struggles we face in life.

We all have legitimate needs and desires given to us when we were created by God, but because of The Fall, we have begun looking to fulfill those desires outside of the only One who can satisfy them. The more we search to meet those needs outside of Christ, the more unsatisfied and discontent we become.

So practically, what does it look like to strive to be content exactly where God has you today?

1. Be Patient With Yourself.

When we stop being thankful for what we have and focus on what we don’t have, discontentment creeps in and we start believing God is holding out on us.

If you struggle with contentment, you are not alone. I believe most people wrestle with it one way or the other. Some people may not even realize they are searching for contentment, but they are constantly seeking after the “next thing” they can do or obtain in life. In Philippians 4, Paul talks about contentment and that he learned to be content. The verb “learned” indicates that Paul had to grow in his understanding of how to be content in all circumstances and this didn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself if you battle with contentment.

2. Cultivate a Thankful Heart.

You may be single, longing to be married. You may be married and want a nicer house or another child. You may want to escape the painful season you are in. You may also be in an abundant and sweet season. No matter where you are, focus on cultivating a thankful heart.

When we stop being thankful for what we have and focus on what we don’t have, discontentment creeps in and we start believing God is holding out on us. Psalm 116:17 says, “I will offer to you [God] the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” This reveals that having a thankful heart doesn’t come naturally to us, but rather it is a sacrifice. Strive to thank God in all circumstances.

3. Focus on Today.

When we constantly look forward to the next season or next vacation or even the next meal, we completely miss the moment we’re in and the blessings found in it. Our time on earth is short—much shorter than most of us would like it to be. Keep your eyes focused on today. Soak up every moment of it. Another day like it will never exist again.

4. Trust in God’s Provision.

The Lord knows exactly what you need when you need it. In the book of Exodus, after the Israelites were miraculously rescued out of Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for a while. They began complaining to Moses about not having enough food. God told Moses that He would send bread from heaven to feed them, but every person needed to collect only the exact amount required to fill their stomachs each day.

God is in the business of providing for us. And He does provide for us everything we need each day. We need to open our eyes to the ways He is providing. Focus your eyes on all God has given you each day.

5. Contentment is Found in Christ Alone.

Christ is the only one who can fill the insatiable desire in each of us for something more, because God created us for all our desires to be met in Him alone.

 

 

Learning Contentment: One Step At A Time

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As I sit down to write this post about the topic of contentment, I must confess that at this very moment, I am struggling to be content. To be honest my heart is longing, aching even for certain things I’d love to have in my life but don’t right now. Over the past eight months, God has impressed upon me this idea of contentment, and what it looks like to fight to be content each and every day. I use the word “fight” because I believe that learning to be content is just that. I believe it to be one of the biggest struggles we face in life.

Philippians 4:11- “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

In Philippians, Paul makes it clear that he too has wrestled with this topic. He claims to have “learned” to be content in any situation indicating that this did not happen over night. Learning contentment is a process, and something we will continually do over our life times. As people, we all have legitimate needs and desires given to us when we were created by God. However, because of The Fall, we have begun looking to fulfill those desires and needs outside of the only One who truly satisfy them. The more we search for these needs to be met outside of Christ, the more unsatisfied and discontent we feel.

Through talking with my friends and people in various life stages, I have realized all the more that these needs will not be met through anything we can find on earth. Some people may look at my life and say, “You live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and have the opportunity to do things most people would never do in a lifetime, how could you not be content?” I may look at some of my friends and think, “They have a wonderful husband and a beautiful home, they must be happy.” But what I have realized more and more is that we are each continually longing for the next thing, be it a larger house or putting down roots somewhere or a better job. Have you ever looked forward to an incredible vacation for weeks and after going on it, returned with a sense of emptiness? Have you come back and immediately begun searching for the next thing to look forward to in your life? Contentment is a struggle.

So practically, what does it look like to strive to be content exactly where God has you today? Here are five things I have personally learned over the past few months:

– Be Patient With Yourself: If you struggle with contentment, you are not alone. I believe most people wrestle with it one way or the other. Some people may not even realize they are searching for contentment, but they are constantly living for and seeking after the “next thing” they can do or obtain in life. In Philippians 4, Paul talks about contentment and how he learned that in whatever situation he found himself in he needed to be content. The verb “learned” indicates that Paul had to grow in his understanding of how to be content in all circumstances and this didn’t happen over night. So be patient with yourself if you battle with being content.

– Cultivate a Thankful Heart: You may be single, longing to be married. You may be married and want a nicer house or another child. You may be in a place where you would do anything to escape the painful season you are in. You may also be in a season that you love more than any other season before. No matter where you are, focus on cultivating a thankful heart. Often times, when I stop being thankful for what I have, and I focus on what I don’t have, discontentment creeps in and I start believing God is holding out on me. Thankfulness is not easy though! In Psalm 116:17, the Psalmist says, “I will offer to you [God] the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord“. This reveals that having a thankful heart doesn’t come naturally to us, but rather it is a sacrifice. Strive to thank God in all circumstances!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

– Focus on Today: Did you know there will never be another day like today in all the history of the world? When we constantly look forward to the next season or next vacation or even the next meal, we may completely miss the moment we’re in and the joy and blessings found in it. Our time on earth is rather short; much shorter than most of us would like it to be. Keep your eyes focused on today, and soak up every moment of it. Another day like today will never exist again.

– Trust in God’s Provision: The Lord knows exactly what you need, when you need it. He will give you what you need each and every day no matter what season you are in. I read recently in the book of Exodus about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Soon after God did a miracle to pull them out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites began complaining to Moses about not having enough food. God told Moses that He would send bread from heaven to feed them, but every person needed to collect the exact amount required to fill their stomachs each day. God is in the business of providing for us. And He does provide for us everything we need each day, we just need to see the ways in which He is providing. Focus your eyes on all God has given you to make it through each day.

– Recognize That Contentment is Found in Christ Alone: Many Christians have heard the popular verse found in Philippians 4 that says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. We often apply this to various activities we do such as a project at work or an obstacle we want to overcome, however, when reading this verse in context, we see that Paul was in fact talking about how to be content and endure any situation. He says, Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things him who strengthens me”. 

You see, at the end of the day, our circumstances will not make us happy. No matter how much money we have, what kind of house we own or what friends we surround ourselves with, nothing can fulfil us the way Christ can. Whether we eat an amazing meal or go without food, we will not be content based on anything material or circumstantial. Christ is the only one who can fill the insatiable desire in each of us for something more, because God created us for all our desires to be met in Him alone. Christ will help us learn contentment as we rely on Him through everything we go through in life. He will continually show us that He can satisfy our deepest longings and needs as we seek Him and a relationship with Him above everything else. Christ loves us so much and wants to meet our needs. My hope is that we too can say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”.

The Topic of Failure

I read this quote the other day in a book called, “Faith is Not a Feeling”, and found it to be so encouraging. It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we are struggling or failing to reach our own standards of where we think we should be in life. Without the challenges and difficulties in life, we can’t truly have a ministry. The book that I read talks about believing God and His promises apart from how we may ‘feel’. Now for a woman, that seems like it could be an impossible task. However, as we apply God’s Word to our lives continually, and strive to cling to the Truth found in the pages of Scripture instead of how we feel, we will experience true victory in our lives. Here is an encouraging quote by J.C. Metcalfe. Hope it lifts your heart like it did mine!

“Without a bitter experience of our own inadequacy and poverty [we] are quite unfitted to bear the spiritual ministry. It takes a man who has discovered something of the measure of his own weakness to be patient with the foibles of others. Such a man also has first hand knowledge of the loving care of the Chief Shepherd and His ability to heal one who has humble come to trust in Him and Him alone. 

Therefore, he does not easily despair of others, but looks beyond sinfulness, willfulness and stupidity, to the might of unchanging love.

The Lord Jesus does not give the charge, “Be a shepherd to my lambs… to my sheep on hearing Peter’s self-confident affirmation of undying loyalty, but He gives it after [Peter] has utterly failed to keep his vows and has wept bitterly in the streets of Jerusalem.” – J.C. Metcalfe