Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Godsroots Initiatives

The Vouse has landed in Minneapolis to visit family and friends. It feels strange to not be on the road, and not to be in the vouse. (The heat and humidity here have made us glad not to be in it).

Plans are to fly back to Colorado to visit Laura's folks, to attend a friend's wedding, and to help drive Brian up to Minnesota to start his trip. The past few weeks were spent at a lake cabin with the Naglak relatives and sailing with John's parents, brother and a friend around Duluth for a few days. We're now back in Minneapolis for another week and a half, hoping to catch up with some friends here and tell about our travels and hope to be an encouragement to them. The Lord hasn't given us any bigger picture plans, and it's a struggle to turn to the Lord for every little thing while staying put.

Living in the vouse was something the Lord called us to  - a big learning experience about dependence on Him. He has provided for all our needs, all the bills have been paid, we stayed warm last winter, and were able to have free time to spend on encouraging friends and learning how to relate to Him and each other better. While our "minamalist" lifestyle might be kind of trendy, we didn't do it just cause we thought it would be cool to be hippies living in a van and feel good about ourselves in what we could do without. We hope we haven't come across as judgmental or above anyone for our choices. We try and take Matthew 6: 19-34 seriously - we want Him to be our treasure, for we "cannot serve God and money" or "be anxious about [our] life". We hope to share this idea with other Christians. What can they give up to the Lord? How can they let Him be sufficient enough? To ask Him about the "stuff" in their life. Is is being used to glorify Him or would it be better to give it up or sell it to the poor? We feel God has let us keep our outdoor equipment in order to bless other people by taking them on adventures. This was a big part of our time in Gunnison - taking people xc-skiing, mountain biking, rock and ice climbing.

The frustrating thing is many non-christians seem to be more on board with this communally invested lifestyle than Christians. The green movement has brought up people who want to involve community in helping each other. We've encountered initiatives like community gardens, the hourdollars service exchange, Food Not Bombs, and many other innovative ideas that spark our interest. However, these organizations don't bring people to Christ.  Conversely, Christians don't seem to galvanize worldly people the way these do.
Christians aren't cool in popular culture, partly because Christ doesn't care about being hip to the world's standards, but possibly because Christians seem hesitant to embrace "grassroots" ministry efforts.  We think there a need for more Christians to pursue a diversity of ministry opportunities based on the leading of the Spirit, within the accountability of their local family of believers. Many Christians seem to want to seek out larger existing ministries or organizations. These have a larger budget and an organizational structure. Not to say these ministries aren't effective or good, they are, but we wish many more christians would see the needs around them and just jump in and start meeting them. We as believers don't need authorization from larger groups or to wait around until a budget appears (God will provide for what you need to do, if it's His will) in order to best bring Christ to those around us; we need the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit and the support and accountability of the Word and the Body.

People want something new and innovative to be excited about.  Christianity is viewed as ancient and stuffy.  We have a God who is more creative then anyone has imagined; more exciting then anyone has ever experienced.  How can each of us who believes in him make him REAL in our community?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catching up with our thoughts...

We embarked on this trip seeking out a better understanding of what the Jesus wants us to focus on in our future.  At this point we have as many questions as ever.

John was daydreaming in church on how to reach climbers. Climbers don't come to church, they are at the crag on Sunday. Bikers, skiers, etc. are all spending their weekends out of town doing the activities that they love and this means that there is almost no way to get them into a church building on Sunday morning to hear the Gospel.  We've been also thinking about the nature of church and how to best present it to people who don't understand it, or even want to understand it. How can we be "Christians" without bringing all the stereotypes and prejudices that people associate with that word? The essentials of the Sunday morning church "event" are worshiping God together, having the Word preached, and praying together. People also need to know that church is happening in order to participate and it has to be culturally accessible to them. What bothers us is that there are a bunch of outdoorsy people who don't show up to church because it conflicts with their priorities, and because they don't feel comfortable there.

The question is - how do we bring church to them, such that they recognize it happening and that it feels accessible to them. The answer seems simple - go to where the outdoorsy people are, when they're gathered there, and hold church in an obvious but unobtrusive way. The mental image is get out the cardboard sign that simply says "Church", and put it up next to us, let people know that they're welcome to join, and then when we're done we're going to go have fun climbing or whatever we're there for. Then do church, even if no body comes. Preach a sermon to the air if we have to. Keep it simple, succinct, deeply heartfelt but un-affected, visible but not obnoxious. Maybe "Church" on Wednesday night at the local trailhead parking lot is a prayer meeting for twenty minutes before the evening ride.  Get the sign out, briefly walk around and personally let people know what's going on, go pray without making a big scene of it, and then go ride. There are all sorts of climbing, riding, whitewater, and skiing festivals and gatherings.  Most of them are held over weekends.  Go bring church to them so that they can see God being worshiped, and hear his word being preached. This seems to be a call that we feel is unmet in the American West.

This is a daydream, a question we have for God about how we might serve because it is something we are saddened by - the lack of Jesus people visibly and actively living their faith amongst the outdoors community.  We would like it if you all would pray for us as we seek out answers and guidance and also that you would give us your feedback here on the blog.  This wouldn't be something that would be wise to pursue as a replacement to participation in "normal" church or outside of supportive christian fellowship. We certainly would rather settle into a single community for a season, either for John to finish school or to simply put down some roots for a while.  The reality for us at this point is that God hasn't pulled us toward any one community or established ministry yet. We certainly have spent time in communities that make us really happy, that we can see ourselves living and investing in.  But as we've interacted with mature believers around the northwest, they have had the opinion that the Lord is using us doing exactly what we're doing and that we should be satisfied, even confident to continue it.

One of our frustrations is that we desperately desire to be more actively sharing the gospel and focusing on seeking out unbelievers and loving them extravagantly for Jesus.  It's from this heart that the trailhead "church" daydream comes.  We need so much prayer from you all that we would confidently take every opportunity to share the gospel specifically with people we meet, instead of copping out and simply talking about "caring" or "investing in others". 

We've  been meeting so many cool people on our trip. Some of the most open, generous people are not christians. Our views seem so parallel, and through our lifestyle we can easily connect. Other van-dwellers for example. People who desire to live simply and help people out. The desire for community, living not for one's self but for others, is a common ground we have with many people. Lots of other people are "spiritual". It's difficult to want to communicate Christ with them, because they claim happiness and love and peace already. We feel they're just missing Something, replacing it with yoga, the universe, or other religious or spiritual beliefs. We believe that the power of God through his Holy Spirit gives christians something essential and irreplaceable.  Obviously, though, few christians live as though they have some awesome power in their life that others should want for themselves.  So we meet many people who wonder why they should believe in Jesus when most of what they see of His followers doesn't do justice to their own ideals. We often feel outdone in generosity by these people. In Christ, we should be able to blow everyone else out of the water with His love, generosity and care through us. So pray for us that in Him our expressions of Love would be inexplicable with out him.

Again, please communicate with us about these things we're sharing with you about ourselves.  You guys are our family, our community, and we value your advice.  Love you all!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Catching up with our travels...

It's been a bit since we got off the boat.  We spent I few nights meandering down Highway 20 through the northern cascades.  Wet.  Pretty.  Thought about climbing Mt. Baker but didn't feel up to it.  Finally rolled into Winthrop, WA in the Methow valley last Wednesday.  We got some good information on climbing and biking in the area and figured we might stay a day or two.  On Thursday morning, we stopped into Methow Boot Repair and met Sid, the owner.  Sid turned out to be awesome: helpful, friendly, generous, and enthusiastic, especially about climbing and mountaineering.  Before long we'd hatched a plan to go up a couloir near the highway that evening.  After going for a quick mountain bike ride we picked Sid up after work and embarked on our first snow climb.  It was classic alpine climbing, with a mixture of moderate angle snow, ice, and rock scrambling.  We got to the top right before dark and did most of the rappels and the hike out by headlamp.  Sid has pictures and we'll post them when he emails them.  Very successful mountaineering adventure!

We've spent quit a bit of time recently thinking and praying about what the Lord is calling us to in the future.  We'll post on that soon.  Suffice to say that we spent a few days in Winthrop camping out and working on that.  On Saturday we went to a BBQ at the Friendship Alliance Church in Winthrop and spent some wonderful, encouraging time fellowshipping with the folks there.  After Sunday service we left and drove to Sandpoint, ID.

We are currently in Sandpoint working on the van and enjoying the warmth, the beach, the Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters' deliciousness, and thinking some more about what the Lord might be dreaming up for us.