MK

manderYes, I am posting twice in one day. But this is important. I just witnessed one of my most dear friends get baptized before she moves to California in less than a week. I knew her before the Ember Cast, but this network is what allowed our friendship to grow into what it is today. She is such a beautiful young woman of God who I am going to miss so much. The love that Jesus pours into her is so evidently poured right back into others. Her heart is huge, and the love that she has shown me is a manifestation of the love that Christ calls us to. She understands what missions are and why they matter. She is dedicated to the Great Commission and what it calls us to do. She grasps completely the implications of missions in today’s postmodern culture. She is full of joy and is kind to everyone, even those who are cruel to her. This sweet sister of mine does not attempt to overcome evil with evil, but overcomes evil with good. She is willing to admit when she is wrong, and is one of the most humble, hilarious, down-to-earth, Jesus loving, amazing people I have ever met in my entire life. And today, through her baptism, she readily admitted that all of these good qualities are thanks to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who transformed her from the inside out. This is what Ember is about–beyond the missions strategies and the meetings and the blog posts. Ember is about creating relationships like this and watching God adopt individuals as sons and daughters. I needed to post this because MK is moving very soon, and selfishly, I wish that she could stay. But I am proud that she has made the decision to follow God with everything she has, even if that means leaving home and comfort. I am so excited to see what this life will hold for her, as well as eternity. I love you, MK…from here to heaven! Thank you for what you have brought to the Ember Cast and what you have brought to my own life personally.

Love,

Hope

 

New Yet Ancient Way

photoI’d just like to start off with two housekeeping things. One, I’ve been labeling all my journal pages since January 1st as 2013. It is rather disappointing to find this out and have to make ugly scratch marks to correct the year to 2014. Also, please observe the photo attached to this blog post. This is a sneak peek at all of the crazy ideas that I am going to try and impose on my resilient boss, Tony Sheng. But hey, he’s the king of crazy ideas. (Disclaimer: All things are not actually possible through the Ember Cast. Don’t try this at home. But all things ARE possible through Him. Word.)

Speaking of crazy ideas, in the 2nd section of The Forgotten Ways, Hirsch begins brainstorming exactly what forms the DNA of the “Apostolic Genius,” or the new yet ancient way of missions that has made God’s people the most transformative people in history. If we look at the “ancient” part of the equation, we see a force that is catalyzing, moving, and changing every single day. The church described in the New Testament was radical. These disciples had crazy ideas. This movement was spreading fast and it was transforming individuals and communities from the inside out. This is Apostolic Genius. It is composed of many parts, and Hirsch insists that it is still possible today.

He mentions one example of Apostolic Genius being alive in today’s society. It is called the Church Multiplication Associates (CMA). I was expecting his example to come in the form of a small church begun on the economic fringe of a 3rd world country. No. CMA was actually founded in the United States and spread outward. Wait a second. In the scheme of the world, the United States is not the “fringe” as I was thinking of it before. Then I thought again. Turns out, Tony Sheng was right again. When Hirsch says “fringe,” he doesn’t mean just the economic fringe. The fringe seems to be the group of people who just happen to have the most fertile soil, ready for the gospel to be planted, because for whatever reason, they are desperate. Whether that be the girl at school who sits by herself and has no one to call a true friend, or the poorest of the poor, struggling to get their next meal, or the man who has exercised all other options (wealth, power, fame) and yet still has not found true joy. These people are willing to listen to the gospel. They are ready for the love of Jesus Christ to transform their lives. This is the fringe. And from the fringe, the gospel movement can explode. Awesome.

Back to the book. Hirsch begins to lay out a basic diagram for the various parts and aspects of Apostolic Genius. Not surprisingly, the idea and belief that Jesus is Lord lies at the heart of it all. Without this core, there will be no transformations. There will be no movements. We need to remember always that Jesus is Lord and He loved us enough to die for us and all our sins. Wow. That never loses its power, huh? The five main ideas surrounding “Jesus is Lord” are, in no particular order: Missional-Incarnational Impulse; Disciple Making; Communitas, Not Community; Organic Systems; and Apostolic Environment. That is the DNA. I can’t wait to keep reading and find out what all of these things entail. Hirsch seems to be on to something here.

 

Movements Begin at the Fringe

alan hirschI’ve just started reading The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch. I’m familiar with the author. At the beginning of last year, I blogged about a video about the Post-Christendom mission, featuring Alan Hirsch. This video opened my eyes to a concept that has drastically and radically changed the way I see what the church is, means, and needs to do in today’s world. The beginning of The Forgotten Ways has had a similar effect on me.

Hirsch begins his book by illustrating the steps taken to try and revitalize a church that, like so many others, was on the decline in the 80’s. The church was called South Melbourne Restoration Community (SMRC). The steps taken to bring the church back to life include changing the culture from “death to chaos” and becoming a church-planting church. I have heard such assertions before. I am perfectly aware that Jesus intended the church to be missional from the start, and that means creating intentional community, fellowship, and discipleship (which tends to result in chaos, as the Holy Spirit has room to move) and it means reaching out and spreading the church’s influence (church-planting).

But there is one concept that Hirsch introduces that I have never heard before. He says “all great missionary movements begin at the fringes of the church, among the poor and marginalized.” He points out that Jesus and the Early Church’s ministries began at the fringe, and were the most successful in history. Hirsch tells a story to help illustrate what can ensue if the missionary movement begins at the fringe. A former zany Greek drug dealer and roadie encountered God in a real, personal way whilst serving time for unpaid parking tickets, and ended up bringing his former customers to Christ. This is messy. This is unconventional. But oh, how beautiful it is when God changes people from the inside out and creates unexpected communities. Hirsch says that this community is what eventually helped bring SMRC, a dying church, back to life.

I see the truth in this. I have witnessed fringe movements myself. I have also witnessed churches which focus on the center, and then span outwards. I do not see the same passion there. I do not see the same catalytic effect.

I wonder how this idea interacts with the idea of missions in Europe, which are oftentimes concerned with the “center” rather than the fringe, because these are the people who are least likely interested in church. I’m sure Hirsch will address this later. If not, it is definitely something I’d like to research further.

2014: The First Blog Post

New Years was super fun… I spent it watching Disney’s new movie Frozen (which is SO good) and hanging  out with the other Ember ProtoGuide, Measu. So now, with New Years all finished and done, it is 2014. I’m graduating this year. I’m going to college this year. I am hoping to travel a good amount again this year. I can already foresee a bunch of new, exciting experiences coming for me that I will want to remember in the years to come. As I look back on my blog posts from 2013, I realize that the journey that I have documented is invaluable. I want to remember this year and what I’ve read, watched, learned, and experienced forever…and I have a chance to do that because of this blog.

I’m not one for New Years resolutions, so I’ll just make it a goal that I am hoping to achieve and that I will surely pray about. I want to blog even more this year. I want to do my blog assignments for Ember with a dedicated heart, but I also want to post about things that I’m not necessarily assigned.

These past few days, I have happened to stumble upon a handful of Bible passages that talk about community, learning from each other, and shining God’s love in various ways. One of the ones that sticks out is from Matthew 5:13-16.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

I am in no way perfect. In fact, I suck. My good deeds are few. But I feel like these verses have helped me to see that God wants us to communicate with each other. He wants us to live in loving community with each other. He wants us to learn from each other. He wants us to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. That is an impossible task to do alone. But through and with God, all things are possible. He allows for these tasks to be achieved by creating fellowship among His people. As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. When we are honest about our experiences (good and bad), we leave room to be encouraged and led forward or corrected and led towards a better path.

I am starting to see how blogging is an extremely valuable way for believers to communicate, live in loving community, and learn from one another. It allows for the global church to connect. Some of the blogs I’ve read have spoken such truths into my life that encourage me forward and make me want to encourage the blogger writing. Other times I read a blog post that is filled with corruption, and I often see other believers quick to correct, sharpen, and attempt to help and lead that blogger towards God’s true purpose.

Basically, this is just a really long winded way of saying that I want to blog more because when I do blog, I find it so valuable in my own life but it also might contribute a small part to the online community which is made up of the global church. How cool is that?

So hopefully, I’ll achieve this goal and it won’t be too long before I post again.

-Hope

Disclaimer: Tony Sheng has always said how great blogging is but I never listen. Let the records show that I found the truth eventually despite my stubbornness.

2013 in Travel

Was inspired to document my travels from 2013 like Tony Sheng…I seriously cannot believe how many places I’ve had the privilege of visiting! (These are not entirely in chronological order)

  • Atlanta, GA, USA
  • Houghton, NY, USA
  • Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • Annapolis, MD, USA
  • Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Washington, D.C., USA
  • Harrisonburg, VA, USA
  • Elizabethtown, PA, USA
  • Orlando, FL, USA
  • London, England
  • Marseille, France
  • Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Athens, Greece
  • Trikala, Greece
  • Meteora, Greece
  • Paros, Greece
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Providence, RI, USA
  • Columbus, OH, USA
  • Gambier, OH, USA
  • Richmond, IN, USA
  • Boston, MA, USA

france

I cannot wait to see where God takes me next year…

-Hope :)

2013 in Words

2013 has been the best year of my life thanks to the Ember Cast. And I am not just saying that to make Tony Sheng happy. Nope. It’s the absolute truth. I’ve been able to have so many experiences this year, completely unique to Ember. I’ve made new friends from all over the world. I’ve had cross-cultural experiences this year that I never thought I’d be able to have. When I went overseas, I was equipped with the knowledge I needed to adapt to new cultures. My friend from France moved in with my family and I learned how to live alongside someone from a completely different culture. And lastly, and probably most importantly, I have strengthened my faith upon deep roots and solid soil which will not falter when I go to college. I am confident in this. Before, a lot of my faith was based off “feeling.” How good did I feel during worship? How good did the singers sound? Did the sermon personally convict me in a deep way? Now, even when I don’t necessarily “feel” God, I know that He is here. I know it. And I believe that my faith is true. I know how to defend my faith and I am prepared to do so. These things are all new. Ember has shown me a side to Christianity that I think is closer to the Early Church–one that is very concerned with each member of the body of Christ and finds its base on Christ and the Bible’s teachings alone. Consequently, there is a church dedicated to the work prescribed by love. These are the things that I want to find in any church I go to in the future, and these qualifications also allow for cultural diversity among churches. “Different types of churches for different types of people…” I cannot wait to see what 2014 holds. God has wrecked me and changed me so much this year, and I hope He does the same next year so that I may  become a better servant for Him and His purpose.

Happy New Year,

Hope :)

Perspectives

November was one of the busiest months I’ve experienced as an Ember ProtoGuide. Not just Ember activities, but finishing up college apps and keeping up with AP classes and turning 17 and getting my first speeding ticket and such. Basically, I’ve been realizing that I am in my senior year of high school and I’m almost an adult. That means that the stuff that I learn about with the Ember Cast–missions, being a global citizen, church planting, etc.–are actually going to pertain to me as an individual in less than a year. I’m starting to see all of the Ember curriculum as crucial information that I need to soak up so that I remember it, use it, and catalyze when I’m in college next year.

Anyways, we’ve had some awesome experiences this month and I regret not making time to blog about them earlier, because they were just that great. In this post, I’m going to discuss how Tony Sheng, the founder of Ember Cast, got the opportunity to teach a Perspectives class. If you don’t know, Perspectives is a 15 week class taught around the nation that focuses on “building global momentum to help complete the Great Commission.” This particular Perspectives has been held at Ekklesia Church in Reston, Virginia. So on a Wednesday after school, I drove straight to Tony’s house to meet up with Measu, the other ProtoGuide, and some more Ember folk. We climbed into the car and made a pit stop to talk to some “world class global leaders,” in the words of Tony Sheng, who had spent many years with their families overseas with the State Department. After grabbing a quick dinner, we went to the church. One cool thing about this particular class was its unique location. Reston is an extremely affluent area of Virginia, full of high class restaurants, expensive housing, and top notch shopping. In the center lies Ekklesia Church, which is actually a Spanish speaking church. I love visiting churches where other languages are spoken because it reminds me that the church is truly global and bigger than I can even imagine. Although there was some worship done in Spanish, and there were ESL students taking the class, there were also native English speakers who came to Ekklesia specifically for Perspectives on Wednesday nights. Tony’s talk was great. It focused on global and local poverty, and he also got to hit on the controversial subject of the potential toxicity of short term missions. The students all seemed eager to learn, and I even got to share a story from our trip to France and bring up the spiritual poverty that we can often be blind to.

This was only the beginning of an extremely busy month. Tomorrow, I’m going to write about a unique service trip to Baltimore, where we teamed up with Salisbury students. I just want to wrap up by saying, in the spirit of Thanksgiving which has recently passed, that I am so grateful for the Ember Cast and all that it has taught me. It has given me an entirely new outlook on what it means to be a Christian. It has made me excited, rather than afraid, to go to college. Whereas before, I thought that being a missionary was all about being separate from the world and skipping college and not getting a job, I know now that the whole world is a missions field and we need to be a part of it. We don’t need to submit to it, but we need to have skills and we can use those skills for His purpose and His Kingdom. We can be a missionary as teachers or as bankers or as doctors or as waitresses. The Great Commission says “go.” I know now that wherever I go, whether it be across the world or right down the street, there is work that He will give me to do. I am so thankful for this new knowledge and the way that it has transformed my life.

With love,

Hope