From Urbana Associate, Paul Borthwick:
As co-laborers in the work of the Kingdom and fellow partners in the world of fund-raising, I thought you might like to read these words from a 27-year-old Christian responding to questions I was asking about raising funds from the under-30 crowd. [NOTE: The respondent is from a upper-middle class background and a liberal arts secular college grad, who prefers to remain anonymous.]
“Concerning giving among my generation, my observations are:
1. Many people in my generation feel entitled. We ‘deserve’ to drive in luxury, we have ‘earned’ the right to be pampered and take exotic vacations, and we are worth being spoiled with facials, manicures, spas, new clothes, gyms, professional trainers, dinners at fancy restaurants, followed by fancy drinks, fancy coffee, etc. etc. etc. If this all sounds like the Kardashians, you’re right!! This type of life-style takes lots of money, often leaving us broke, or worse, in debt. I think a good bell weather for our cultural narcissism is the American wedding. It captures much of what is wrong with our culture. After all this, we don’t have any money left to give to others.
I’ve been recently excited about the development of common vision around Scripture engagement among various ministry organizations and leaders. It is one of our 4 objectives for Urbana 12, to see student’s not only study the biblical basis for missions but also grow to love studying God’s Word. In November, a national Summit in Orlando around Scripture engagement will involve various organizational leaders. Next week, I head to Wycliffe Bible Translator Board meetings, where the Directors are passionate about advancing the work of Bible translation. And in my role in InterVarsity, I also see significant new initiatives around Scripture engagement, esp. engaging young students in God’s Word and growing them to be passionate about God’s Word.
We just launched a new online daily, inductive Bible study for students called “Thirsty” — which provides a passage and 3 inductive questions, delivered each day to your inbox or smartphone. Those who would like to discuss the passage or share personal application can interact on the daily “Thirsty” site or Facebook page. (See a video introduction in my prior blog post.) Two of my current staff and one of my former staff are significant leads in this new initiative, so I’m especially proud of this good work!
About 650 Christian leaders from 150+ nations are gathered this week at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, for the quadrennial World Assembly of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. I am leading a delegation of 44 InterVarsity/USA staff who feel honored to be here. What’s perhaps most encouraging is the presence of 130+ student leaders from movements around the world! See my World Assembly reflections on InterVarsity’s blog and yesterday’s Mission Network News report. Or listen to a six-minute interview, where I share on-site reflections from Krakow.
Getting around Kolkata will either make you a saint or a mean, crazy son of gun. I’m serious. I see a lot of saints and last night I was one crazy son of a gun. We left home at 1:00 pm to travel from the North to the South to help YWAM folks give a program at an AIDS Hospice. We got home at 10:00 pm. For this 2 hour program, it took 2 subway rides, 1 taxi, 2 cycle-rickshaws and 5 auto-rickshaws. Add 98% humidity, the temp at over 30 degrees, diesel fumes, and never a place to sit that wasn’t squashed next to another sweaty body for close to 6 hours. Also you have to add sounds of honking horns at all times, a political rally leader yelling at full blast, and the constant task sound that Indians make with the side of their mouth to show they are frustrated. Parked cars, construction equipment and people bulge into the already inadequate driving space because there are no rules for where you can and cannot park, and most sidewalks are filled with hawkers. When we arrived home, our host mother said, “you look tired” which I took as a compliment because I was so filled with rage at the inconceivable inefficiency and over-stimulation that I felt ready to rip someone’s head off. But I was too tired for violence and so we ate dinner quickly and headed upstairs to bed.
Days like this is exactly the reason why people come home from trips like this and say pithy statements like “It made me so thankful for what I have”. Because before coming here, we didn’t think to be thankful for the fact that commuting for a church service takes only 5 – 20 minutes rather than 4 hours. Nothing I do at home in Vancouver requires as much effort as getting anywhere, to do just about anything in Kolkata. And I even walk to get my groceries in Vancouver! Other mission teams from Western Countries get around this massive irritation by renting large Air Conditioned Buses that drive them door to door where they are going to serve. It’s easier, more comfortable and more efficient, depending on strikes, traffic and what the cows are doing that day. But after raging for awhile, here are my 3 thoughts on why my soul (and everyone on the team’s souls) are all better from the experience of local transportation:
1. All of our souls really are on a life-long path to being more of a saint or more of a mean maniac. Towards God, love and peace or away. The difficult circumstances of life, those that make us most uncomfortable, help rise to the surface the stuff of character, which produces perseverance, which produces hope which produces faith. That’s somewhere in the bible I know it.
2. Certain kinds of transport can only get you certain places, part way of a larger journey. We may want to get to Kalighat, but first we have to stop at 3 other places, each with their own unique feel. Just like we may want to get to intimacy with God, but we have stops of self-awareness, and skills for loving others and disillusionment that come along on the trip to intimacy with our Creator.
3. Each mode of transportation has it’s own unique feel and way. Just like personal prayer feels different than public worship, or journaling feels different than service. Each mode is good, but not complete in itself to get us to the end of the journey of experiencing the fullness of God.
While I think scripture commands us to be thankful for what God gives us, I also think we have so many other commands to consider when we realize our position of privilege. I can choose to go home in 2 weeks to traffic lights and walking to church, but my friends here cannot. And how do I steward that choice when I follow a God who didn’t stay up in heaven and be thankful that he never had to step in cow poop on a crowded street in Kolkata? It’s not clear what my choice should be, which I suppose is why I have a few more stops and rickshaws to take on my journey with God.
- Today’s Reflections from an InterVarsity Staff who is leading the Kolkata Trek
The following is from an American student at the Lima site on InterVarsity’s Global Urban Trek: “Meet Carmen… A loving wife and mother of two young boys. Together with her husband, she has started a non-profit ministry aimed at helping children develop into leaders for the future in their churches and their communities. When asked, Carmen details how she would like to expand the program to offer more, but the only people who fund it are Carmen and her husband, selflessly giving everything they have even while raising two growing boys.
"Meet Luis… A pastor at a local evangelical church that is overflowing on Sundays and has four church branches in the mountains. Despite a continually growing congregation and typical services with around 100 people attending, he is still in despair. When asked about programs the church has for children, he sadly says that there are no programs, yet dozens of children, because of the lack of resources. No one can give time, either, as members struggle to help their families eat on a daily basis.
"Meet Isabel and Elena… Unpaid directors of the comedor, these two women work tirelessly so children in the neighborhood can get free, nutritious lunches during the week— perhaps the only balanced meals they get. Neither young woman knows how long to remain at the comedor, as working there means that they cannot get a job to help support their families. Selflessly, neither woman has decided to leave, because quitting means that 40 children go without meals.
"These are just a few of the examples we have seen— people sacrificing what little they have and dedicating their lives to raise a generation of confident children. But in every case, I witness such a lack of resources. These programs and many more that we have worked with are noble causes that help the youth in the community. It’s difficult to see so little being offered. Being an American and having the “if there’s a problem, fix it” mentality, I’m at a loss with how to help here. And maybe that’s part of the problem. Coming in with the mindset that I, in my own way, can help fix this problem.
"I’ve learned here that the problems run much deeper than it seems on the surface. Issues of drug use, abusive relationships, child neglect, gang violence and others run rampant in the streets where we work and live. I’ve taken a learning posture in this experience by sitting back and taking in as much as I can. The more I see, the more questions I seem to have. What has caused people to be in their current situation? How can I help? Can they get out of it?
"I’ve learned that the answers aren’t clear. The sad reality is that the people we’ve met can work extremely hard the rest of their lives and still be consumed by poverty.
"Present among the poverty, the waste, the hungry, is truth: God is here. I see it in the kindness of the mothers’ hearts and the sheer joy on the children’s faces. God is bigger than all of this and gives Peruvians and me a reason to hope for the future. With him, anything is possible, and because of that, we can be truly grateful, even when answers are unclear."
(All names have been changed in this post.)