Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ALL IN: My Night of Nets Manifesto. Or why I am slightly obsessed with bed nets…A REPRISE...

Here's a piece I wrote last year...and it rings even more true for me with a couple hours to go before our soccer match begins here at CU...I shared this with our team yesterday...and here it is again on my blog...I write it with joy and gratitude in my heart...
 
Today we host my favorite event in the Cornerstone campus calendar. We call it night of nets...and it combines two of my greatest passions in life: the beautiful game called soccer or futbal and the people and communities of a sub-Saharan African nation called Zambia...

This is the 5th year we've done this event at CU and it is now one of our best attended and embraced student activities...the event is designed to use the platform of athletics in our culture to bring awareness and real change to one of the world’s greatest global issues.  We are trying to raise funds to provide insecticide treated bed nets for families that face incredible health dangers caused by the deadly disease malaria.

We've watched this event grow quickly in the amount of money we've raised, the attention given to the issue on our campus, the number of students involved, and now this year has been exported to other university and high school sports and teams to expand the impact of these truly life changing items...

To be honest, this little idea I shared first with a few CU soccer players in an impoverished community in the Dominican Republic has morphed into something I hoped and dreamed it could be...and with that growth has demanded more of my time, my resources, my thinking, and my skills as a leader and educator...

And this thing we dubbed night of nets keeps perhaps most importantly grabbing a deeper and fuller grasp of my heart...I am quite sure that many of my co-workers, friends, students, players, and family members wonder at times why I tweet so often about malaria, create & post a multitude of different visual pieces of promotion about NETS on our campus walls and doors, and cast vision almost hourly in classrooms, leadership trainings, staff meetings, soccer fields, and conversations in my office about the chance we have right now to change lives forever on the other side of the world...

So as we head into our final fall night of nets match for this year on the CU campus, here's a little list and explanation for why I am all in on this event, why I think it is one of the most important things we will do as a Christian college during the 2014-15 school year, and why it causes my heart to jump and my voice to speak loud as I join so many other people to try and end malaria in our generation...

1. I can't think of anything more ready to be used to invite large numbers of people in my world to do great good than the power of sport...soccer is our world’s global game and there’s something so special to connect as people and friends through a game we love to watch and play…and we have watched athletes, coaches, and fans embrace with gusto their chance to make sports something beautiful and brilliant as a tool to draw many together to both watch and do something extraordinary on and off the field of play…

2. I love the way God has given a ragamuffin group of young men a cause that unites them and allows them to come together to do something that others would never expect them to do...the driving force in night of nets has been a large crew of male college soccer players who have thrown off their selfish and entitled mindsets to be remarkable advocates for a people often forgotten and marginalized in our world…and their involvement badgering and cajoling fellow students to buy a Night of Nets shirt or fund a bed net has caused them to eventually end up in Africa where God changes them into people they could have never imagined they would become…

3. The scope of the issue is so massive that it demands an immediate and real response...malaria is an awful disease that affects hundreds of millions of lives...and as Rick Warren has said the greatest issues in our world do indeed respond the greatest responses...when you end malaria, you impact positively economics, health care, education, families, and the churches of communities in unprecedented ways…

4. Something so cheap and so simple can produce transformational change. A bed net that costs $6 can alter the life, the future, the ambitions of children and families simply because they no longer have to worry about an insect bite ruining their lives...I can’t even begin to describe the opportunity bed nets provide to prevent sickness, death, orphans, and immense heartbreak and grief…a bed net is something almost everyone I know can provide for another whose life hangs in the balance without it…

5. I love the sense of unity and connectivity that this event brings to my life and the college community I love so much...Night of Nets might be one of the very few things that can draw together students from all residence buildings, student interests, and friend groups to be part of something at CU…I love seeing hundreds and hundreds of students walking across campus to be part of something transformational for them…and our Zambian friends…

6. It's personal for me...I’ve taken hundreds of malaria pills to prevent being infected while I travel to Africa and it’s something I’ve read about in all kinds of books and journals and websites…and I am committed to trying to stop my African friends from getting infected by malaria because I’ve seen friends lose their children because a mosquito bit their son or daughter in the night as they slept…and I refuse to accept the fact that anyone dying from a ridiculously preventable disease is the way God wants our world to be in 2014…

7. I am convinced that it is something that Jesus and the Scriptures call me to do as a follower of Him and a person who is seeking to live by the words of the Bible God has written to call me to live a different life...Jesus brought physical healing, a call for justice, uplifting of the oppressed, and a love for those the world had forgotten…and He invited His disciples then and His followers even now to announce and help bring about the coming of His Kingdom…and I can’t help but want to be like Him…

The Apostle Paul in Romans 12 says it better than I could as I think about God’s call on my life to be a person who tries to have God’s love for me to move me to action…

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So I am called by God’s voice and moved by His Spirit to be all in…to be OK with being thought of as a little overzealous, a little crazy, and a little too focused on one thing…

And being all in means I can’t wait to invite people to share God’s blessings in their live with others in great need through the gift of a bed net at Cornerstone University and many other schools in the next few weeks, months, and years…
And being all in means I can’t help but dream…dream of providing 10,000 more bed nets via Night of Nets for families that are praying God will provide one for them tonight on the other side of the world…dream that many more college and high school soccer and volleyball teams will join us to bring Night of Nets to their campuses in the near future…and dream that one day malaria will no longer be on the minds of people in Zambia just like it is never thought about by people living in my city, my state, and my country…

I can’t wait to see friends in Zambia sometime soon again…and tell them a little story about how students over and over in Grand Rapids, MI have responded to Jesus’ call in an event called Night of Nets, and then watch them sing and dance and whoop with joy as they receive a net that ends malaria in their house…

That’s why I am all in, why I love being part of Night of Nets, and why I invite you to be part of a campaign to held end malaria…
You can check out more at: www.cunightofnets.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NIGHT OF NETS: Is This the World You Want?

Yesterday in chapel we showed a new film piece from our recent Zambia trip where some of our incredible Zambian leaders and caregivers discuss the impact of malaria in their lives and communities...here's the link to watch an incredibly moving and educational piece:

https://vimeo.com/107432341

After we showed this video I read something I recently wrote after watching it to our student body...the words remind me and I hope inspire you to continue to pursue a world without malaria...those words are here below...

I don’t know about you, but when I run across a huge problem, something I know just isn't right, when the world does not look like I want it to look and how I believe God intends it to be, I want to come up with a viable and effective and long term solution.

 And you've heard today from our friends in Zambia the scope of this 1 problem, this disease called malaria. And you've heard the incredible power of the solution called an insecticide treated bed net.

 And God in His sovereignty, in His surprising plan, has invited our school to help make others aware of what happens every night when Mosquitos buzz into homes in Africa. And he's called us to be a leader in rewriting that story and giving life in all its fullness without malaria to this next generation in places like Ndola, Zambia. 

 GO week is about learning. And GO week has to be about doing as followers of the God who desperately loves every nation and person in our world.

 Wednesday night is our final night of nets event for this fall. The men's soccer team started this event 5 years ago. And our passion as a team and as a campus still continues to grow as God enlarges both our hearts and our visions for global impact. They are actually hoping to raise the funds thru one match to provide every home, 1500 at risk families, who still need a bed net served by our partner Jubilee Ministries in a place where malaria season is just around the corner…

 I love the fact that one of our defining traditions now, one of our can't miss events at CU, is something where we do something focused on the other, the least of these as we watch a game on a beautiful fall night featuring something on a grass field our African friends love dearly, and we cheer together for this school, this community of faith we all are part of...

 I hope...I actually do pray you'll be there Wednesday night at 7pm on our soccer field. Wear your NON shirt (buy one and save a life like almost 1000 others already have…it’s the thing this year). I need a great all campus shot at halftime. Don't buy Starbucks for the next 2 days, skip a movie this coming weekend, or just give with gratitude $6 as you head into the stands because the reality is that those green nets you saw in African huts on a video today are the ones that $6 of our money collected in an orange bucket at our CU athletic events purchased for their families. They are the ones that my 11 year old sponsored child Darwin who wants to show me his own book he's published someday now sleeps under because of some of you who went to a night of nets match...

 Is this the world you want? It’s a question we all have to daily ask and face as followers of the one who proclaimed He had come to bring the Kingdom…If not, let's make it different Wednesday night...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Less is More: Setting Boundaries for Ourselves with Digital Media--FULLER YOUTH INSTITUTE

Check out this list...worth a read from Fuller Youth Institute on an issue so deeply affecting students and adults both as we live in our culture...

12 PRACTICES IN SETTING DIGITAL DEVICE BOUNDARIES:

1. Set designated places where you keep, and put away, various devices. Setting physical boundaries helps reinforce digital ones.
 
2. Turn off all your devices before you go to bed and, if you’re a youth leader, occasionally post something that indicates that you are doing so. “Had a great time hanging out with you all today! Shutting everything down for the night. Sweet dreams, Internet. See you and your cats tomorrow."
 
3. Bring a camera rather than a smartphone to take photos during events. Post the photos afterwards rather than during.

4. Here’s a great one from Kara Powell: have everyone set their phones in the middle of the table at the start of a meal. The first person to reach for their phone has to pay for everyone else. (You may need to adapt that consequence for young people).


5. Shut your phone off when you attend church on Sunday unless there is a reason directly relating to the service for you to keep it on (e.g. taking notes, texting prayer requests). I will confess that I leave mine in the car on Sundays so I will not be tempted to look at it.
   
6. Set up separate email accounts for work and personal correspondence so that while you are out of the office you are totally out of the office. One member of FYI’s team said she uses two different email providers to make the experience of checking each account feel more distinct and separate.

7. If you refrain from texting and social media as part of your weekly Sabbath, see if a friend will babysit your phone and reply to the messages that you do receive. “This is Art, Brad is celebrating the Sabbath today and left his phone at the office. He’ll get back to you tomorrow.” This also conveys a lot of trust, and implies that you don’t have anything on your phone you would be embarrassed about a friend or co-worker seeing.

8. When you set your phone down during a conversation or when you’re home, be intentional about placing it face down so that you can’t see any notifications as they come in and are less prone to glance at it.

9. Create a “no tech during meals” at home rule that both kids and adults regularly follow so you can practice face-to-face conversation. If it’s too much to make this a standard rule, start with one meal per week. Model for your kids that pretty much any call, text, or post can wait until dinner is done.

10. If you have a hobby that doesn’t involve tech, turn your phone off before you start. If you feel like you need to explain later, you can say, “I turned my phone off to practice guitar for a while.” Doing this without apologizing can help create a new culture among your connections that allows space to be digitally disconnected at times.

11. We have previously encouraged not allowing digital technology in a young person’s bedroom—the same applies for adults.
 
12. There are a number of apps available that can help you with setting limits on where and for how long you spend time online.
 
 
 

http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/viamedia-intro
 








 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Praying for the End of 2 Epidemics...

For the last couple weeks, I've been almost obsessed with the remarkable story of two missionaries in Liberia who were infected with the EBOLA virus while caring for those suffering from the disease in west Africa at a mission hospital. I've been so inspired by the courage and commitment and compassion of those caring for the sick and dying at great risk on the continent I've grown to love myself...
And I've watched with curiosity and frustration and hope the responses in the media and US culture to what is taking place in Africa and how much we are willing to truly care for those in greatest need in our world...and even those who risk their own lives to do so in such clear ways...
I loved this summary thought from Paul Root Wolpe on the CNN Opinion blog I read today...
There are two epidemics in the world today. The first is a troubling spread of the Ebola virus in poor countries in Africa, an outbreak that is the result of poverty, inattention by those countries' political leaders, and a general lack of concern by the wealthier nations about epidemics that don't yet seem to directly affect them.
But the second epidemic is a more dangerous one. It is a spreading lack of compassion, characterized by disaster fatigue, helplessness in the face of war refugees, intolerance for immigration, and now, the desire to ban even American citizens who are sick and need our help. The second epidemic seems harder to contain than the first, but it is every bit as important.
My prayer is that both epidemics named end quickly in Jesus' name...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why I Keep Doing Global Simulations: A Refugee for a Week Reflection...

This week is a pretty quiet week on the campus where I head to work every day...most of our students are home working or traveling or sleeping...and several of the staff I work alongside of in Student Development have the month of July off...I'm busy doing lots of prep and details and planning and thinking as we head toward late August and the rush of another school year at CU...

One of the things capturing my time is getting programs and materials ready for our first year experience program welcoming new students to campus...we've actually created a summer reading program and it focuses on the biography of a former refugee and "lost boy" from Sudan named Lopez Lomong whose story led him from unthinkable experiences in Africa to running on the US Olympic Track and Field team...

Our curriculum will highlight the issue of genocide this year and one of our goals is to engage the needs of refugees even here in Grand Rapids, MI as we learn and become more aware of what is happening in our world...and in partnership with our admissions team our Terra Firma coordinator Kristie Neff helped to create what we call REFUGEE FOR A WEEK...it's simply an invitation to the class of 2018 to join us in living a bit differently for a week so we can have just a taste of what life was like for Lopez and millions of others in our world...it means wearing the same clothes a couple days in a row, not spending money, forgoing a shower, sleeping on the floor, and choosing to not use your cell phone or car for a day...

It seems a bit goofy perhaps but I love what it says to our new students and what it does ultimately for me and anyone else who chooses to participate in this "global simulation" from July 6-12...

I've thought again this week why I continue to design, promote, and participate in these type of activities as a follower of Jesus who wants to see God's Kingdom break forth in every place and people community in our world today...

I have done a host of these over the last decade of my life...doing the classic 30 Hour Famine in partnership with World Vision for several years, personal fasts/prayer times, eating like I live in a village for a day, electronic/media boycotts, and even a week last summer with our family trying to limit all kinds of things in terms of food choices, purchases, activities, and more called SEVEN...

I am honestly always open to these and figured I would share with you why as a middle-aged guy I often join with more idealistic and creative students to live differently than the American norm, if only for a short period of time usually...

*It is healthy for me personally on many levels--I find myself desperately needing to have life be more simple, less material-driven, and frankly less focused on me thinking and pursuing all the things I want that I might not need...there's an attraction and a beauty to life without some of these things that make it more complicated and confusing sometimes even in the midst of having plenty...

*It produces gratitude and grace as I am reminded of my reality versus the reality of the majority of people in our global world...not in a guilt inducing way, but rather in a way that causes me to consider what the world ought to look like for every child and human, and often I am reminded that the world isn't always how I want it to be or how God intends it to be for many in every part of the globe...and that I am invited by Jesus to help change that reality as I become fully aware...

*Choosing to identify and remember the lives and needs of global friends does help produce in me a deeper compassion that ultimately stirs my passion to care to the point of doing something, to help get food to those who have none, to provide clean water rather than having kids drink out of a dirty puddle, to provide a bed net so people can actually sleep rather than fear the mosquito that can end their life, to help bring the love of Jesus in word and deed to those who pray every day for God's provision and hope to their lives, families, communities...

Here's a photo from my recent trip to Zambia with some amazing CU students with our incredible Zambian friends...they are why I have to keep making ways to connect with our world...because even though my office is covered with pictures from Africa and I truly call many Zambians close friends, the world I live in every day can make even me forget...forget that there are refugees who have so much to offer like Lopez to our world...so I will keep doing the simple things on a brochure we created so one day my African brothers and sisters can make the world so much more like God wants it to be simply because they were invited to and given a voice in our world that we all need to hear...

http://terrafirmacu.com/refugee-for-a-week-a-global-simulation/


 

Monday, July 7, 2014

JESUS' TRANSFIGURATION: On Earth as it is in Heaven--MATTHEW 17

I loved resonating so deeply with these familiar words from NT WRIGHT in a daily devotional from the Park Forum:

"What the story of Jesus on the mountain demonstrates, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, is that, just as Jesus seems to be the place where God's world and ours meet, where God's time and ours meet, so he is also the place where, so to speak, God's matter -- God's new creation -- intersects with ours. As with everything else in the gospel narrative, the moment is extraordinary, but soon over. It forms part of a new set of signposts, Jesus-shaped signposts, indicating what is to come: a whole new creation, starting with Jesus himself as the seed that is sown in the earth and then rises to become the beginning of that new world." 

A FINAL SUMMARY: In other words, in the transfiguration of Jesus, God is showing us that he is taking charge -- right here on earth -- and that we should pray for that to happen, recognize it in our midst and long for its completion.

http://theparkforum.org/2014/07/07/843-acres-on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven/

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5 Ways to Make an Impact by Chris Marlow

Serving and engaging the needs of the global poor has become one of my life's great passions...and I've often wrestled with the huge question of how you do that which I am called to pursue well...and here's a really solid list that serves as a strong framework from our friends at Catalyst:

1) Pray Deeply
Transformation starts from within. When the burden for the materially poor grips your heart, the best action step you can do is to pray. Pray for light to shine and darkness to be destroyed. Pray that God would give you wisdom and use your gifts to make a difference and pray that God will comfort those who are suffering. We simply cannot forget that the battle is not flesh and blood.
 
2) Seek Wisdom
As I travel the globe, my heart breaks often. I see so many people who love God and love people do work that actually may damage the people they are trying to love. Why? Because we have not sought wisdom. We do not understand the depth of culture or the complexity of living in a developing country. Sometimes our passion to "go" is what ruins our ability to see communities transformed. Passion can often get in the way of wisdom! Seek wisdom from key leaders on how to love and serve well. 
 
3) Dig Deep 
A shotgun approach to extreme poverty is a sure fire way to not get much done. Ask yourself: what area am I passionate about? Is it orphans, water, anti-trafficking, or job creation? Who is doing that kind of work and how can I help them? There are a few ways to engage with groups that you care about:  
Give:  Money moves the mission forward.  Be generous! 
Human Capital: You have gifts, passions and talents. How can you leverage those to make an impact? Do it. 
Longevity: Find a few organizations you love and stick with them long term. 
 
4) Activate Your Tribe 
Become a storyteller to your family, friends, co-workers and network. Ask them to be involved. Folks have a desire to make a difference. We asked our tribe to tell the simple story of Garage Sale for Orphans. (https://www.helponenow.org/catalyst/) We've raised $300,000 in the last two years and we hope to raise another 1 million in the next two.
We need 1000 people to say "yes" to throwing a garage sale party. 40 kids have been rescued from trafficking, orphans have clean water, and homeless Haitians now have homes and jobs--all through this initiative. Can you join us as well, and become a part of the 1000? You see how simple that was? We would have never been able to make that kind of impact, had our tribe not told our story — it makes a huge difference! 
 
5) Run The Race And Do Not Quit
It is not a sprint. True change takes a long time. I have seen so many passionate "do gooders" burn out quickly as they get frustrated with the reality that changing the world is a slow and steady approach. Pace yourself, keep your main focus on your relationship with God, surround yourself with people of wisdom, find an organization or two and dig deep, activate your tribe and prepare for a marathon, and, little by little, you will see the beauty of transformation.