In his well known book, The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis introduces the realm of Narnia, a kingdom Lucy & Edmund soon learn is firmly under the control of the white witch who has used magic to make sure that it is always winter, but where Christmas never comes.
Could you imagine living in that kind of world?
During advent it is easy to look ahead to Christmas knowing that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior. But especially at this time of year we are supposed to wait. To hope. To long for something different. The tree is decorated, Christmas baking is under way, and the kids open the advent calendar and often comment that they simply "can't wait for Christmas!"
In many ways this season also reminds us of our opportunity as missionaries. Have you ever paused to consider that in the world today are millions of people who are stuck in the long winter of Narnia? Young people all over the world are longing for something different and are looking for meaning, purpose and something beyond their everyday life.
What they are looking for is Jesus.
I've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to Daniel & Mattea, and the genius of Lewis is that he tells a story of a place that though mythical, causes us to think about our own world. Just as Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter were called by Aslan, despite their imperfections, to break the enemy's grip over Narnia, the Lord continues to call His people today to be ambassadors of His kingdom.
But as Paul rhetorically asks in Romans, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'"
During this season I'm reminded of the many young people who haven't heard the Good News of Jesus, and my motivation to continue in the work the Lord has called us to only increases. We are so thankful for the opportunities He gives us around the world to train, encourage and support leaders who are engaged in youth outreach and discipleship.
This advent, we want to encourage you to remember the many millions for whom Christmas isn't coming, who are stuck where it is 'always winter', and to ask the Lord how He wants us all to join the chorus proclaiming the truth that Christ, the Savior, is born.
Spending the day with some students in Hobart, Tasmania on Mount Wellington
The Uniqueness of our "Stage 1" Work
This trip is what we in Nexus call "Stage 1." Since our goal is to equip and encourage the local leaders in their evangelistic efforts to reach young people, we approach these "First Steps" very carefully, with a posture of prayer and attentiveness to what God is doing and what his agenda for reaching young people might be. After 3 years with Nexus, this was my first “Stage 1” trip. Stage 1 is really about preparing to see God at work, to prayerfully consider the right questions to steer the discussions, and to be open to whatever God wants to do. We aim to be very sensitive to where people are coming from. This is important because the kind of time and energy that we typically invest in our partners is so significant that we want to make sure that there is a long term trajectory to our partnership.
Well, after spending a week with some very catalytic-type leaders, our sense is that it's time for Tasmania. We had time with probably 50 different people, but as we prepare to move forward, let me introduce you to just a few of the catalytic leaders we met...
Scouting out routes for outdoor ministry. Mount Dove overlooking Wineglass Bay
Introducing... Some of the Catalytic Leaders we Met
Felicity: My colleague, Ashley Denton, met Felicity when he spoke at the Youthworks Conference in Sydney, Australia in May 2013. Through their conversation it became apparent to him that things may be stirring in Tasmania. Felicity is one of the main reporters for the BBC in Australia. She has an evangelists heart in a culture that does not talk much about evangelism. She is also uniquely visionary in that she thinks much bigger than the average person her age and in her place in life. At the airport when Ashley and I left, Felicity pulled out a piece of paper to show us. She had spent much of that night sketching out a state-wide vision for how to develop relational evangelism and outdoor ministry among youth. She reminds me a little bit of what I imagine what missionaries, Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward must have been like!
Simon: We had the privilege of staying at Simon's house during our visit. He is an elder at a presbyterian church and a high school teacher. Simon really impressed me with his passion for Jesus and his openness to stepping out big time to take a long hard look at what needs to be done to truly engage young people in Tasmania. He is going to be a key advocate among a church planting movement there, and he is a natural "gatherer" who I think will help us connect with many other key people.
Tim: Here was one of the wonderful surprises for our trip. Tim has deep connections throughout the state among people who can help get some legs under the outdoor ministry aspect of our strategy. He understands the power of using adventure and camping to introduce kids to Jesus and help them grow in their faith. And the very interesting thing is that he is on his way out of Tasmania to serve as a missionary in a Muslim country where Nexus has other relationships. Tim is going to be in a very key position in this creative access country and I think we might be able to partner in that country on some ground breaking ministry.
Campbell: He is a pastor in a church planting movement that is part of the Vision 100 Network. Their vision is to see 100 new churches planted throughout Tasmania. Campbell sees the need for re-doubling their efforts to reach students and seems very keen on our relational evangelism approach.
A Season of Prayer for Tasmania
Thank you so much for your prayers and support that enable us to cast vision for more effective student ministry in places like Tasmania. Would you consider praying for our new Tasmanian partners if the Lord brings them to mind in your prayers? There is a lot of work to do, but in my estimation this is a profoundly important time and the key leaders to get inertia going are already there and ready to move forward.