The world is going crazy but we should still celebrate Christmas

***I originally posted this on Facebook on the UCM page but I thought it would make a good blog post too***

Right now we are being bombarded by news of horrors across the globe in an overwhelming volume. Death, terrorism, dangerous weather, and sickness are filling up our news (and newsfeeds) at all hours and you might feel a sickening pit of despair as it feels like the world is crumbling around you, maybe even hate, sadness, loss, fear, etc. As I read status updates about the difficulties in sitting back and enjoying Christmas at this time, I had to take a serious moment to consider what kind of world we live in. My epiphany(ish) is that we are Christians and we don’t celebrate Christmas for the gifts or (home)work free days. We celebrate every year because Jesus Christ, our Lord and saviour, was born to save us from our sins! What we see in these terrible events is that in our world the need for a saviour is clear and massive. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t try to hold the world together—you’re in your small hands. Lift it all up to God in your prayers. Don’t be afraid to celebrate Christmas because having a saviour is worth celebrating!

Luke 2:8-14 (ESV)
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[c]

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I hate to drop the “E” bomb, but…

Evangelism has been made out to be like a dirty word. We’re not allowed to say it if we want to be “cool,” and if we’re upfront about doing it, people assume the worst. I’m not sure when it happened but the term has come to represent this weird stereotype of somebody who is aggressive, heartless, and rude.

The problem is this: evangelism is a part of being a Christian. It’s not for those who have reached a level of spiritual maturity far above all others. It’s straight up just one of the basic foundational things we need to do as Christians. Not that we should do it just because we feel obliged, but that we should do it because we love Christ, who has called us to love others. We don’t evangelize because we want others to feel bad and ashamed, we do it because we want them to know the same freedom and truth that we know. I’m reading a book that includes a great quote by Ken Wilson:

“Most Christians think  prayer and evangelism are electives for those wanting ‘advanced placement courses.’ They’re not. They are core courses, required of every Christians.”

We hate confrontation and we hate to be rejected, but it’s actually pretty selfish if we don’t go out and share the good news. We’re not living up to our potential and our calling if we don’t give our very best or do our part in the Great Commission.

I’m awful at this. I may test as an extrovert, but I hate talking to strangers and I hate even more talking to people I know about things that they might reject me for. However, what I hate most is the honest truth is that, sometimes (most times), I’m ashamed of the gospel. I’m ashamed of what people will say in response to me (or about me) when I straight up talk about Jesus and His saving grace. I’m afraid to tell people that the Holy Spirit dwells within me, and through the blood of Jesus Christ I have eternal life with Him in heaven because it’s a pretty big deal. Being in campus ministry doesn’t make this easier; Having it be my professional occupation doesn’t suddenly remove the fear. It’s an evil thing that I feel persecuted before I even open my mouth, it really is.

So how do I over come this? How do I challenge you to overcome this? JUST DO IT. (sorry Nike…)
The only way to overcome this is to repent, ask for courage, and speak boldly knowing that God will be there. This is something we need to do when we’re training disciples. We need to learn to evangelize right from the start, and we need to be forced out of our comfort zones. How else will we ever make new disciples? If we’re always comfortable than we’re never growing.

Not Quite Asian, Not Quite American; Fully Human

J.S. Park

My mom and dad came to this country separately over thirty years ago and met in New York City, where they were married; my dad came to the U.S. with sixty dollars in his single pair of pants, and my mom couldn’t speak a word of English.  My dad was a Vietnam War Veteran, 2nd Lieutenant in the R.O.K. Army on the side of the U.S., and the only escaped prisoner of war from the Tet Offensive in 1969.  He’s also a licensed veterinarian and a Grand Master of Tae Kwon Do, a ninth degree black belt, the 54th 9th degree in the world.

Before my parents divorced when I was fourteen, my mom owned a laundromat and a grocery store next door to each other and would run back and forth between them to serve customers; sometimes she took old clothes that people left behind because we were…

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check out our fall retreat in video form!

It’s such a huge blessing to work with amazing people, and I can 100% say that the staff + students at UCM@UBC are amazing! Not only are they super smart, but they’re crazy talented and they love to use their talents/skills in creative ways. I’m amazed at how privileged I am to actually get to work on such a gorgeous campus, with amazing people, for the glory of the greatest God. It’s mind-blowingly awesome.

We’re called to live our lives as if everything we do is for the glory of God and BLAMO! You get young people like the ones I work with, changing the face of ministry. Who would have thought the typical church would look as amazing as it does now? Everybody has so much to offer, and when people step up it’s craaaaazy! People are volunteering and serving in all the ways that they can, using the skills and talents that God gave them in beautiful ways. There are just no limits to the ways we all participate as kingdom builder. It really broadens my understanding of the concept of one body with parts for different purposes. I LOVE IT. I actually think I learn more from the students here than they do from me, but that’s OK.

This year we went to Seymour Chalet on Mount Seymour, and it was beautiful! The weekend is a time for students to literally retreat from the intense (and sometimes overwhelming) first couple weeks back to classes, while getting to know the people in the UCM community better. I don’t think people ever get too old for games, and retreats are a good example haha (mennonite dancing, fire in the barn, signs, psychiatrist, etc. just to name a few). Lee Soka came in to speak about being salt and light, which coincides with our theme this year of our little community being the city on a hill. You can read more on it in Matthew 5!

Here’s a video that one of the students decided to make using clips he took from the annual fall retreat back in September!

Sabbath Saturdays

The funny thing about working in ministry is that, as I’ve been doing my best to live a more biblical life, it really has bred a more joyful life for me. One of the best (and surprisingly most difficult) things about doing this so far is having to adjust my lifestyle to actually take a sabbath. In the go-go-go society of busyness and money, it feels like making a big statement to not participate and I’ve felt some serious guilt for not doing any work for a full day. It says in Genesis that the Lord created the world in 6 days, and rested on the seventh. If God decided it was good to rest, why do I think I know better? One who designed and made all of creation must know better than me, who, comparatively, does a lot of e-mailing, meetings, and reading. Now, I’m aware that there are many different ways people interpret this. Regardless of all the debate, I think it’s quite clear throughout the entirety of biblical text that we are called to rest. I’m willing to debate on a lot of topics, but I feel like the idea of resting is clear enough.

In Ken Shigematsu’s book on the rhythms of life, God in My Everything, he quotes Wayne Muller:

“We stop because it is time to stop. Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished [our emails, our projects], we will never stop – because our work is never completely done.” (pg 44)

It makes more sense to take a sabbath than to not! Before the apprenticeship, I always considered taking a sabbath but the idea of losing an entire day of work gave me nightmares of falling too far behind in everything. So really, I considered it every week and instead did work throughout the day haha. Since starting the apprenticeship, it’s a key part to put this command into practice. Not only because it’s a command (although that’s reason enough), but because (in a practical sense), ministry workers are prone to burnout. People think that if you’re doing ministry you need to “give it your all” which is equivalent to working yourself to death. However, in the understanding that life is ministry, this method is really just a show of poor stewardship and an inability to understand that ministry workers are people too. Here’s a list of a couple things I’ve learned through taking this into practice over the past couple months:

  1. There’s so much more time in a week than I thought! Taking one day out of the picture made me prioritize and do a better job of organizing the rest of my days. The same amount of work actually fit, and I ended up wasting less time on YouTube hahaha.
  2. I actually feel well rested. It seems like a given, but when I intentionally take a full day off, I feel so much better as I go through the rest of the week because I start off with full energy levels.
  3. My family appreciates it. I moved in with my family after graduating, and for the first time in years we get to see each other more than twice a year. In taking a day of rest, it gives me more time to spend with them and in turn they rest with me. Win!
  4. Taking a sabbath is as much an act of faith as anything else I do. In taking this day off, I’m looking to God for providence. I have to assume that all is in the hands of God, and therefore removed from my responsibility and ability.
  5. I’m more productive. Taking time away from the hustle + bustle each week lets my brain shut off for a bit. I can look at my work with fresh eyes and process the learning materials from the previous week before moving further.

In sum, a sabbath is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and in practicing it, I can really appreciate why God the Father commanded this. It’s because it’s good. Really, really good. Fathers want to take care of their kids, they don’t want to work them to death. I still do day-to-day things on my sabbath like eat and clean up after myself, but I don’t do anything related to my job. It turns out that it’s made me a more effective worker, and a better friend/family member. You should try it because it’s seriously great.

p.s. it’s important to remember that you need to work on the other days…

The Core Responsibility of Life in Campus Ministry

Part of my job is to lead a Core group, which at UCM is the equivalent of a bible study + community/life group. I lead with another girl (it’s the first time leading a Core for both of us) on Monday nights, and the goal is that the same group will meet every week to foster great friendships and in-depth discussions. Cores are the very core of our ministry (that’s why they’re named as they are) and the idea is that even if we produce minimal fruit everywhere else in our work, it’s our goal to establish a strong core network for the students in which they can feel supported and grow spiritually. We function as a social group, personal support/encouragement/accountability group, discussion group, and study group. It’s a bit of a complex make-up and each group takes on a unique tone depending on its members, but I really love Cores. Many of my best friends today are from my first year Core!

In all my time as a student, it was my biggest fear to have to step into this specific leadership role because as we all know, it’s way easier to be led than to lead in situations like this. I went into this apprenticeship with high anxieties about leading a group, and to take it to the next level, I am co-leading a first year group. My first reaction was that it was high pressure time because first years are the future of our community. If I were to fail miserably here, not only would I fail our ministry goal, I would also be putting the future of our ministry in jeopardy. What if I greatly mislead the students? What if it made me into a false prophet? What if I am an awful facilitator and teacher? What if etc. etc. etc.

I brought my fears to God in prayer throughout the summer and almost every time I pray. None of this was in my control, and we (the staff) prayed over the sorting so much! The way the cores are sorted are the only ways that actually worked, so per usual, everything was in God’s hands. It’s been a couple weeks now and I can only say that this is probably my favourite part of the apprenticeship so far. My co-leader is such an amazing human being and so incredibly hospitable, the senior staff did an amazing job of putting together each bible study (we’re focusing on Sermon on the Mount for this semester), and God is at work in building community in our little group. It’s a very good reminder that this whole thing is not up to me, and I need to release the responsibility to God. I am a servant here, not the master.

Personally, I find that the most important thing that I’m learning at this moment is about responsibility. As an apprentice, and as an able bodied Christian, it’s my responsibility to be prepared to serve to the best of my abilities. There are many times when questions come up that I don’t really know how to answer biblically, and many other times that the students are much more knowledgeable than me. I’m not taking it as a competition in any way, but I am seeing very clearly that it is my responsibility to give them the best that I can, and to serve them with honour because this is the work the Lord has called me to. The Lord blesses us with wisdom, knowledge, and etc. (endless blessing!) but as stewards it’s our responsibility to use them as kingdom building tools. We’re given these gifts to use, and if we don’t use them, than what’s the point? It’s a humbling reminder to be diligent in my own devotionals and studies as the students rely on us (my co-leader and myself) for honest, accurate, and useful answers.

If you’re looking for a bible study, feel free to use ours! It’s available at http://www.ubc.ucmonline.ca under Resources > Core Studies. Our studies from the past few years are there, and they’re great to use; easy enough for beginners to understand, but complex enough that the more experienced can take it to the next level.

And so God said, “Thou shalt go forth and blog.”

Just kidding! That’s definitely not a commandment given anywhere in the Bible (clearly, because they didn’t have blogs). However, writing is definitely not ignored; The Israelites in Deuteronomy were to write the commandments on stones from the Jordan River, Jesus himself wrote on the ground when the people were trying trap him so that they might accuse him, and the Bible contains letters to the churches. Now, I’m not going to be writing anything so powerful as the aforementioned texts, but I am going to utilize the power of the internet to share with you my experiences and thoughts as a Campus Missionary Apprentice with UCM@UBC.

I once asked a very wise man how it was that he found himself in ministry and, unexpectedly,  he replied that, “life is ministry.” Up until this point, I saw my life in very specific categories of school/work, social, and “Christian stuff”; Sometimes they mixed but, for the most part it was separated. What happened after he said that was a complete paradigm shift and I took his words to heart. My life as a Christian is wholly God’s. I am a steward of the numberless blessings from my Father, and an eternal life through His son Jesus is a major one. I re-evaluated my life with a fresh set of (humbled) eyes, and asked the Lord where to go next. Repeatedly, I felt God calling me back to this amazing community that I had called home for so long to learn the ropes of campus ministry, and actively engage in the Great Commission – to go out and make disciples. In my prayers, I was faced with the question “will I do my part?” Thousands upon thousands of students walk this beautiful campus everyday, and yet so few of them ever hear the good news! The more I study the word, the more deeply I feel the need to go out and share with my peers in this, which is literally a matter of life and death.

The campus missionary apprenticeship gives me the opportunity to engage in hands on learning and academic study through classes, mentorship, discipling younger students, bible study, and dedicating my life to serving the students in whatever way God leads us. I love that we do it in the same way that Jesus did: through relationships, community, love, mercy, peace, justice, and grace. We walk through life together, in the increasingly individualistic modern day society, and only a month in I’m already amazed at the intricacies of God’s work. I’m starting this journey as a fresh faced and rather ingenuous apprentice with a lot to learn, but I’m excited to be refined and to serve on such a vast mission field.