We Are Moving To…

Oakland!

Here’s an excerpt of what I shared with our prayer team today:

“As you may know we celebrated the arrival of Cruz Isaac just over two weeks ago! He’s awesome and we are having a wonderful time learning about him, and what it means to be a family of 4.

The major transitions keep on coming, and so it with a sense of bitter sweetness that I share that this will be our last month on staff with Sojourn Collegiate Ministry.

Several months ago Amy and I began to talk and pray about our future. Those conversations led to a general feeling that it was time to head back to the West Coast. We had no clear idea what that meant, what we were going to do, or when it would happen. We only knew that it appeared God was starting to lead us back towards home.

Shortly after making that decision opportunities began to pop up, some of which seemed to make a lot of sense for our family.

Right before Thanksgiving we decided to accept an offer from Regeneration Church in Oakland, CA. Starting in January I will be their Associate Pastor (a new position for this church), helping lead the church’s efforts to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly as a community near downtown Oakland.

We are really excited to join this community and to start serving the city of Oakland. We feel like this is a strong fit for me, and for our family. I will get to use my gifts of leadership and teaching and still get to hang out with college students, but see my pastoral influence expand beyond generational ministry. There are also many opportunities for our family to lead a more integrated life, which is very exciting for us as our family grows.

We are so grateful for Sojourn and for the opportunity to serve and grow here.”

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates and stories about our transition. Thanks for reading, and for those of you who have donated money, who have prayed for us, or who have been part of our Sojourn chapter in any way, all we have is immense gratitude for helping us tell what we hope and pray has been a good story.

Tired and Hopeful

Well, another semester, another year, is wrapping up, which means time to look back and to look forward (and to start blogging again).

I’m usually pretty tired at the end of a semester, which means I’m also a little more grumpy/cynical than normal. This is the natural outcome of another year watching people make the same mistakes over and over again (even though your advice and guidance is so golden). Of another meeting where someone is on their phone the whole time. Of another person late for the millionth time. Another cancel. Another flake.

That’s life. That’s ministry. And at the end of a semester it sure feels like it has added up into a huge mound of “why-can’t-people-get-their-stuff-together.”

But despite that I can’t remember a year ending and feeling this good about life.

Fundraising has gone well, with the usual unbelievable stories that go along with it.

I am so proud of our students. This year has been packed with great stories, life change, and a very clear front-row-seat to God moving.

I love our little community in Roslindale. Having multiple friends right down the street has been life-giving.

Our family is amazing. Amy is an incredible mother, and Marina is a joy to be around (those things are very strongly correlated).

And I have a lot of hope that there are some very cool things coming up just around the bend. The future is bright. Praise the Lord.

A Shout Out to My Seniors

10014732_10102217582443835_688711228_oSpring Break 2014 will always hold a special place in my heart. Yesterday’s post unpacks some of the reasons.

There is one other big reason and it has to do with the students pictured above: (front L-R) Sarah, Anna, Bridget, Ruben, Faith, and Rebecca (front). For the purposes of this post Sarah is a stand in for Dorsa (although Sarah’s been a huge part of the larger Sojourn story and is going to intern with us next year, which is super exciting).

These six students (again substituting Dorsa for Sarah…Dorsa, unfortunately, couldn’t make this trip) will always be extremely special to me. They were all sophomores when I came over to BU in the fall of 2011, and took over as lead in the spring of 2012. There was quite a bit of turmoil and transition at the time, but, for whatever reasons, they stuck it out with me, and now they are really able to enjoy the fruit of that as their college careers come to a close.

It is not an understatement to say that there would be no SojournBU without these six. And because of their faithfulness they helped shape a community that will live on well after they graduate in May.

Rebecca has helped lead cadres and raised the bar in our conversations by bringing incredible insight and intelligence to the group. Faith is the “mom”, loving and caring for people well. Ruben brings the goofiness and an unparalleled commitment to, and passion for, community. Anna has done everything from hosting and leading groups, to fighting with student activities to make events happen, to pursuing freshmen, to being our guinea pig “public relations” intern. Dorsa is our radical lover of justice and people in the margins. And Bridget is the heart and soul of all we do, pulling off amazing events and bringing people closer to Jesus.

Our ministry is a million times richer for their contributions, and it is bittersweet to see them get ready to go.

And so, maybe the biggest reason this trip was so special is that we got to do it together.

Loving Salinas

breadbox2I knew this year’s spring break trip would be a different experience for me than past trips. I was the primary organizer and connection for this trip, and then there was the small fact that we were bringing students to our hometown.

I knew the responsibilities would look different, and certainly the texture of the trip would feel different as well.

However, I was not prepared for how all of this would affect me emotionally. Turns out the week was a profoundly moving experience.

I challenged our students at the beginning of the week to take up three postures: that of a learner, a servant, and a teammate. They more than rose to the occasion.

As learners they asked good questions, got to know many of the people doing great work in Salinas, and demonstrated a ton of respect to our partners.

As servants they did any and every task that was asked of them, always with a happy heart.

As teammates they looked out for each other and got to know each other better by participating in meaningful activity together.

Three things really moved me about the way this group took up these challenges. First, the Mexican culture permeates Salinas, especially on the east side where we did most of our work. Mexican heritage is part of Amy’s story, and now our story, and even for a gringo like me, there’s been a lot of wrestling over the years with the divisions in our home community.

I’ll never forget spending summers working in the fields with the county and watching people treat my partner, Teo, with an incredible amount of disrespect, until they found out he actually was my boss. The harsh truth is that Mexican-Americans, and Mexican immigrants, don’t always get much respect in Salinas, but our students treated everyone they encountered with a great deal of respect, which meant a lot to me (and to the people we worked alongside during the week).

Second, when I was teaching in the Salinas school district (2002-2006) I grew to love the kids growing up on the east side. To watch our students love on and care for this next generation of Salinas youth brought me to tears on a daily basis.

Third, our students also loved our families really well. It was kind of surreal to sit in my mother-in-law’s backyard, and in my parent’s garage, with 20 people from Boston. Talk about world’s colliding. But, it was also beautiful to allow our family to extend hospitality to the student’s we’ve been investing in for the past couple years and then to see our students reciprocate with more great questions, and conversations, and thank you’s, and smiles.

So, thank you Boston friends for loving Salinas well, and for all that means for me and my family.

Be Awesome

1780167_10202444553689725_2052193352_oI plan to post several reflections on our past two weeks in California, but I’m going to work my way backwards. Mostly because our return home was pretty traumatic.

We got up at 5 am, west coast time, said tearful goodbyes and drove to SFO (where we said more tearful goodbyes). A small blessing happened at the airport when we were able to get Marina her own seat (although that did mean I had to sit a row ahead of the rest of the fam).

Everything kind of went downhill from there. Overall, M did fine on the plane, but she’s done better (she only slept 20 minutes). I came down with a head cold the day before and wasn’t feeling so hot during most of the flight.

When we finally landed in Boston (6 pm east coast time), feeling sick and tired, Stacey picked us up, we ate some dinner, and finally got home just before 8 pm. And then things got crazy.

We got everything up stairs and turned on our heat (a sad fact, in and of itself, after being in California for two weeks), and less than a minute later our house was full of smoke and the smell of smoke. Turns out there was some kind of water leak down stairs while were gone, and we’re still not sure what exactly happened but there was no way we were all sleeping in our house in that condition (today we are home, but we are still trying to fix all of this).

So, we gathered everything up again and headed to Stacey’s house (thank you for being so close and for house sitting this week). As we were hurriedly trying to get everyone and everything in the car the back gate of the Jeep falls on me and pops out my shoulder. This shoulder has been troublesome for a long time, but this episode was particularly gruesome and given the circumstances I did not handle it well.

We finally got everyone in bed sometime around 9:30. What a day.

My immediate reaction to all this? Let’s go back!

Which leads me to some thoughts I jotted down on the plane: during the week students were around, we got to hear from several great people we are connected to about how they are radically living out the ways of Jesus. Everyone who shared did a great job and challenged our group to think and act more like Jesus.

I most enjoyed listening to Ben, the lead pastor of Cypress (the church that housed our group for the week). I thought Ben shared a number of things that were extremely applicable to our students, but one significant idea stood out to me.

Ben talked about his process of growth as a person, and as a leader, and he stressed the importance of faithfulness in the small things. He said that when he tried really hard to be good at the small things, at whatever was right in front of him, then the next thing, the future, seemed to naturally make itself clear. When he stressed about the next thing, and neglected the present, everything seemed more muddled.

So Ben’s advice to our students: just be awesome at whatever you are doing right now, and then when the next thing comes, be awesome at that (which sounds very cool in an Australian accent).

A lot of our students are facing transitions: graduation, starting a new phase of their program, marriage, internships, new jobs, moving from the first half of college to the second half, all kinds of transitions.

It’s common for students to be looking ahead. As a result it is difficult to be present, and it is difficult to see the value in whatever they are involved in right now.

And it’s common for me to do the same thing: to look ahead, but also to want to run back.

Ben gave us a good word: just be awesome at school, awesome at work, awesome at being a college student, and when the next phase starts be awesome at being a PT student, or a seminary student, or a new spouse, or a new employee.

And when the next phase starts with all of its new challenges and difficulties: don’t turn around and run backwards. Last night I did not feel like I was awesome in any way, and it’s actually in those moments that our faithfulness is most tested.

Be awesome at the little things, and big things will come! 

A Brief Thought on Longevity, Fame, and Ministry #collegiateministry

1069420_10151748274956183_2002977921_nLast weekend Sojourn gathered the Providence and Boston teams for a defacto board meeting. Most of our time was spent gleaning wisdom and inspiration from Rick Harper. If I told you all the details, I’d have to kill you. Suffice it to say: we had fun.

Rick Harper is the most unique people you will meet in campus ministry, or perhaps any kind of ministry for that matter.
He dips.
He swears.
He uses bizarre analogies.
He cries a lot.
His heart bleeds for the broken and left out, the marginalized and the hurting.
He’s been doing this for 27 years all at the same campus (Georgia Tech).
He plays up his “hickness” but the dude is brilliant.
He’s humble and arrogant at the same time. He might be the most interesting man in the world.

In the campus ministry world Rick generates strong opinions. Some don’t like him (mostly for the swearing and the dipping). Some love him. I’ll drop a couple of facts here and let you draw your own conclusions:

  1. He’s grown the ministry at Tech from 0 to where they now reach 1000 students on a weekly basis.
  2. His ministry at Tech created and launched Globalscope which is planting college ministries all over the globe.
  3. Having done this for 27 years his discipleship tree is HUGE.
  4. This is my favorite: over 200 marriages performed from kids out of the ministry, and only 3 divorces.

I’m in the camp that loves Rick Harper, primarily because he is so passionate about reaching the “notorious sinner” kids and leading them to Jesus.

But, I am growing to respect something else about Rick, something that feels so fresh and unusual in our current ministry culture.

If anyone should have book deals and speaking gigs it should be Rick.
The man churns out top-quality disciples of Jesus like few other people I’ve ever met.
Yet, he’s never written anything down, let alone written a book.
He doesn’t do traveling speaking gigs. He’s not a keynote speaker at conferences.
He doesn’t have a twitter account, let alone thousands of followers.

What I see happening, all too often, is that we replace the hard work of disciple-making with celebrity.
I’m not the first one to point this out.
And in all honesty, I get tempted by the celebrity minister machine (and here I am writing a blog about it).

But it’s way easier to spend a life tweeting, blogging, writing some books, and doing some gigs than it is to pour yourself out for college students (or anyone) year after year after year.

Do we care more about making our name great or about making disciples?

Rick will tell you all he wants is a well done from Jesus when he goes and a bunch of people to celebrate his life when he’s gone. They are going to have to rent out the Georgie Dome for Harper when his time comes.

And I find that infinitely more interesting and inspiring than 10,000 followers on twitter.

Drama Camp #sojournboston #collegiateministry

One of the beautiful stories of the summer is unfolding in the Dorchester neighborhood through one of our key neighborhood partners. The Quincy Street crew pulled off a great summer Drama Camp program last year (they did a performance of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”), but they have taken it to a whole other level this time around. They wrote grants (and received them), they hired neighborhood youth to be Jr Counselors, and they recruited Sojourn students to be interns and volunteers.

This summer the campers are writing their own play, which is very cool. In addition, they are learning all kinds of amazing skills, new games, positive ways to interact and help each other, and getting to see some sites via Friday Field Trips. I love everything about this, but I especially love watching our (college) students invest in this program and this neighborhood. Most of the students volunteering or interning have experience in theater or music and it’s beautiful to see them using their skills and training to bless these kids. I attended the Drama Camp Open House last night and was blown away by what they all have accomplished over the last few weeks. Check out the pics:

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DIG!

Great start last night to SojournBoston’s summer gathering, which we like to call DIG.

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Some Thoughts on Collaboration

When I hear the word “collaboration” I tend to break out in a rash. Collaboration conjures up horrible group project assignments from high school and college where I ended up doing all the work and getting half the grade I could have received working solo.

I hear pretentious educators dropping buzz words into conversations in the lunch room as a way to rip on each other.

I see bloggers who talk about the joys of collaboration in almost every post but don’t give you the time of days when you offer your services.

I get shivers thinking about conferences I’ve been to with big white boards and breakout sessions where people from different ministries get to share “ideas”.

My ideal work situation (for writing, planning, etc) would be to have an office, in a cabin, in a wooded area, with large windows overlooking a body of water, with many, many books, and no other people around. Introvert dream!

Despite that fundamental aversion, it turns out that I spend a good amount of time collaborating. Everything from planning semester activities with Sojourn to writing sermons with REUNION is done in a team context.

And it’s good.

I was reflecting on this other day when I considered how funny it is, given my natural tendencies, that I spend so much time working with people on projects.

This is probably why I blog. It’s like an outlet for solo endeavors.

What I want to say is this: when you trust people and love the people you work with, collaborating is great, and it’s fun, and it’s productive.

But without those two ingredients it’s a sort of Steve-kryptonite .

So, find people you love to work with and get some stuff done!