Merry Christmas to all of you! I’ve had a pretty great year this year—traveling to India, sharing my life with 130 high school volunteers over the summer, learning new things about God and myself—and very soon I will be boarding a plane headed for Israel.
That’s right, I am officially headed to the Holy Land to see all I can see. I can’t wait to walk where Jesus walked, see what Jesus saw, and experience the very unique culture that exists in Israel. The trip will last for twelve days—December 28th to January 9th—and a small group of us from YouthFront will be traveling around to not only see many historical sites but to also begin dreaming of how to develop this kind of trip into a yearly thing we offer our camp summer staff who come and serve with us.
One of our main goals at camp is to guide, care and inspire the entire summer staff. The reason we do this is because we wholeheartedly believe in the concept of overflow. Meaning, as we continually point our summer staff to Christ for refreshment and renewal, they will in turn be better suited to guide and care for their campers in a more genuine and authentic way. This Israel trip is just another way we can help inspire the summer staff to continue in their lifelong journey with God outside of the camp setting. Plus, it just sounds great to go and see where Jesus lived his life while alongside a group of friends you just spent a large chunk of time doing ministry with.
This trip is pretty costly though. The grand total for the 12 days of Israel goodness is a whopping $2,800. As of this writing I am still about $1,200 dollars away from having enough money to make this happen. Please join me in prayer as my thoughts are focused on this upcoming trip. Pray for the people attending, pray for their finances, pray for safety, pray for transformation, and pray for Israel as a country. I also ask that you would prayerfully consider giving financially to this trip as well. If you decide to do so, all you need to do is send in your gift by clicking here. You will be directed to the YouthFront site and from there you just need to click 'support nick online' and give your gift. It will then be deposited into my account. Yes, it’s that easy! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist...)
Know that I am very appreciative of the consistent support I have received over the past 3 years I have been on staff at YouthFront. If it wasn’t for the consistency and generosity of people like you I would not still be working here. Thanks for being you, and know that you mean the world to me.
Recently I went to a concert in Lawrence, KS. I was a little uneasy about going in the first place because I was going alone, but I faced my fears and went ahead as planned. In hindsight I’m very glad I went because it ended up being an incredible night for me. It wasn’t incredible because of the bands or because of seeing people I knew. It wasn’t incredible because of a great parking spot or because of a girl. No, it was incredible for a completely different reason.
At one point during the show I heard a brief outburst of shouting...just a sentence or two, then silence. No one fired back, no one even acknowledged it—the show went on. After the third or fourth time I heard these shouts I had to find out what was going on so I peered over the balcony where I was sitting to see who was making all the noise. After scanning the lower level a couple of times my eyes locked onto the source of all the ruckus. It was a homeless woman who seemed to be having a conversation with herself, or with people who weren’t really there. There was no one who would go near her. Every time an outburst came you could see everyone take a couple of steps away from the woman. At one point I saw a couple of people leave and then return with the venue’s security. I watched as the security guard whispered something in the woman’s ear and then stood nearby to escort her out. The woman then lifted her hands in the air, gave the peace sign, waved a lighter around, and then gathered her belongings to be escorted out. I kept thinking that this woman thought she was at Woodstock.
This is when my heart broke. As soon as she left everyone in the crowd cheered, and it was a thunderous sound. It even caught the band playing off guard as they were in the middle of a song and had no clue what was going on. People quickly filled in the space previously reserved for the woman and the show went on. Shortly after seeing this entire thing unfold before me I was stirred to action, but not without a good amount of hesitation. I ran out of the venue to try to find the woman but after walking up and down the street in the front of the venue I realized that I was not going to find her. She was gone and a whole group of people were inside the building feeling very smug about what had transpired.
After all of this was done I ended up feeling a lot of different things. I was both angry and saddened by the people’s contentment with pushing this woman out of their community. I also felt a great amount of fear because I was contemplating going down to talk to the woman while she was in the crowd. I didn’t want to experience the embarrassment that could come along with interacting publicly with this woman who was talking to herself. All of these feelings aside, I realized something. What I had just experienced made me feel alive. I wanted to fight on behalf of the woman who was excommunicated. I wanted to show the woman that she is worth something. I wanted to show the woman Jesus and offer her some sort of hope.
Now I sit here at YouthFront two weeks later and am still wrestling with what went on that night. I think I have been battling these feelings of discontentment because my thoughts repeatedly turn to people like Kenny, a 62-year-old man I know who has no family or friends anywhere near Kansas City. I also think of my friend named Mike who is 19 and is battling some pretty serious self-image issues. These people are just like that woman I saw at the concert. They have been shunned from society and left to live life alone—mainly because they aren’t convenient to spend time with. They take things very personal, they talk about things that are tough to identify and connect with, they deal with things on a daily basis I have never had to deal with, and the list goes on and on.
I am done living a convenient life. I want to be close friends with these people who are hard to love. I want to have them over to hang out and eat, I want to know what their lives are like, I even want my friends to meet them so they can get a taste of what it could look like to truly love the least of these. Jesus calls us to the margins and all around us there are people who don’t fit into the mold our culture deems appropriate and we are charged to not only go there to be Jesus, but to also go there to see Jesus in them (Mat. 25:40).
I have decided to act out on these passions. I am going to be moving into a house very close to where both Kenny and Mike live. Through this I hope to devote more time to them—to become more involved in their lives so I can learn how to love more like Jesus loves, to give more like Jesus gives, and to inspire more like Jesus inspires. Do I know how long I will be at this house? No. Do I know how my life will look after committing to this? No. But these are crucial first steps for me to take in order to surrender more of my life to God, and to ultimately fall more in love with the One who rescued and restored me. Please pray as I make this transition. Have a great advent season.