Destino on Summer Mission 2015

Destino on Summer Mission 2015

In Destino, every generation of students includes those who will help take God’s Good News to the world. It’s like a giant relay race of passing on this privilege from one year to the next. This past summer we sent teams to three summer missions locations:  Vail, Co., New York City, and the Mediterranean.

Joaquin grew up in NYC and the Dominican Republic. Last fall his Destino mentor asked him to consider a summer missions trip.  “I’ll go anywhere!” he replied!  And he put his faith in God to overcome obstacles, whether fear or initial lack of resources.  Joaquin and his team just returned from taking the gospel to students in the Mediterranean.

Bernice from Texas was on a summer mission in a resort town of Colorado. There she and other students lived in the community, got summer jobs and learned to discuss their faith with co-workers and visitors from around the world:

“I’m eager to share my faith. I just didn’t know how to start the conversation.
I’m looking forward to going home to have these conversations with my
friends and family because I’m not sure if we believe the same things.”

Gilberto, a student on Destino’s week-long summer mission called New York Trek, was excited to share with those closest to him some of the things that he learned that week. The week had taught him and other students some ways to live more effectively for Christ. Most of the training and activities took place around the city so they also got to see the sites.

Another student who went on Destino Trek, said, “This trip helped me refine my perspective. Sometimes I get caught up in school or work, and I lose my focus on what’s truly important. This reminded me what I really want to be about; I definitely want to be about Jesus!”

Sarah also spent a summer with Destino. Her previous year at school had been difficult, but being with other Christians day to day, living out their faith helped her understand why. “I was going about it all wrong. I was trying to please and not disappoint God through my actions. I learned to pursue God and get to know Him personally. With that, God will change the desires of my heart.”

She’s right:  life change doesn’t come apart from our heart change.  Maybe God wants to use Destino Summer Mission in 2016 to change you, too!

Posted by Devin Tressler in Missions, Spiritually Empowered, 0 comments
For We are God’s Workmanship—Part 3: Living in Two Worlds

For We are God’s Workmanship—Part 3: Living in Two Worlds

At the beginning of a summer mission project we always have a briefing where we talk about cultural differences and crossing cultural boundaries.  I love leading this segment, because crossing cultural boundaries has taught me personally a lot about myself and my own culture.

I was all prepared to lead this segment with our team–Bible verses studied, witty illustrations rehearsed, notes in hand–but I was not prepared for the direction the conversation would take.  I was not prepared to see a picture of Jesus himself revealed in these new teammates of mine.  We started by reading I Corinthians 9:19-23, where Paul describes how he lays aside his culture for the sake of the Gospel:

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

I asked, “How do you think Paul felt when he was ‘becoming like’ these different groups of people?” Silence.

Finally, one student offered, “Well, I know how it makes me feel to change the way I am to fit in better.”  He lived in Mexico until he was nine years old, then moved to Houston, where he lived in a largely African-American neighborhood.  He explained how he learned quickly not just to speak English, but to adapt to a new culture. “In my neighborhood, if you even greet somebody wrong, you could be in a lot of trouble.”

At age 18 he started college at a university that is over 70% white, and he learned to adapt to yet another culture.  He navigates between three very different cultures–languages, dialects, mannerisms, and customs–depending on whether he’s at school, at home, or around his family.

When I do cultural training with students, I explain that things will be different where we’re going.  While abroad, they have the opportunity to lay aside what they feel comfortable with for the sake of helping others get to know Christ.  But these students already knew that cultural differences exist, and had about twenty years’ experience navigating these differences by adapting the way they spoke, acted, and interacted with others, depending on the setting.  They possess a skill that some people have to develop through painstaking trials and many errors.  Changing and adapting to a new culture is clearly something that can be used by God, but also something that reflects who God is.

Philippians 2:5-11 describes how Jesus, “though he was in the form of God,” took the form of a human.  To say it another way, Jesus’ ‘native culture’ was heaven, and when he took on human flesh, he crossed cultures:  that is, he laid aside his heavenly culture for a particular human culture.  And his reason for doing this was to die in our place, to sacrifice for the sake of those he loved, to bring them new life.  Now this group of Latino college students were doing the same thing–laying aside their own culture by traveling to a new country, to bring God’s offer of new, full life to those God loved.  Crossing cultural boundaries has been a given for each of these students, yet in this simple fact of life I see a beautiful picture of Jesus stepping into our world, laying aside his own comfort for our sake!

There are hard things about crossing cultures every day of your life.  Though Jesus chose to step from heaven into our world, my friends were born this reality.  “Sometimes you can lose sight of who you really are, because it’s so easy just to adapt,” one girl said in the course of our conversation.  Sometimes people start to think that one of the cultures they live in is inferior to another, more dominant or powerful one.  But the reality is that God created and formed each culture on earth:  while every human culture is marred by sin, each also reflects God’s character as well.

It’s my prayer that those for whom cultural adaptation is a way of life would have eyes to see how their life in two worlds reflects Jesus’ love for us in adapting to a new world.  And though they didn’t choose this life, their ability to recognize and navigate between cultural differences is a trait that can be powerfully used by God.

Devin is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.  Originally posted on his blog.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Missions, 0 comments
For We are God’s Workmanship—Part 2

For We are God’s Workmanship—Part 2

In Genesis 16:13, Hagar calls the Lord “the God who sees me.” Basically, the story goes like this: Hagar is a slave woman for Sarai, Abraham’s wife.  She becomes pregnant with Abraham’s child and is afraid of her mistress (even though having a baby by Hagar was Sarai’s idea in the first place), so she runs away.

When she’s sitting by a spring, God appears to her and asks her what she is doing. She is honest, and tells the Lord about the messy situation she’s in and why she’s run away.  Ultimately, God tells her to go back and submit to her mistress, but he also promises to make a great nation from the son that she is carrying.  In that moment, Hagar calls the Lord “El Roi,” or “the God who sees me.” In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, verse 13 says “She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me! Yes! He saw me; and then I saw Him!”

“You’re the God who sees me!
Yes! He saw me; and then I saw Him!”

I’ve read this story a few times in the last few years, and I’ve been struck by Hagar’s excitement that God saw her.  I’ve always been told and just assumed that God could see me. I couldn’t see Him, but He could see me.  If I had one shot at giving God a name, I might have said “the really strong God” or “the God who loves me” or even “the God who knows everything.” If I was going to choose one important characteristic of God, I certainly would never have chosen the fact that He could see me.  Maybe this seems trivial to me because I’ve never really felt overlooked. I grew up in a white, middle-class household and was the oldest child in the house. On top of that, I grew up in the generation where every parent was positive that their child was the smartest, most creative, most talented human to ever walk the face of the planet.  From a young age, I’ve been asserting myself and performing, making sure that I was seen.

You know what the down-side to that is? I don’t always see others. My culture, generation, and sinful nature have taught me that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and that I’ve got to look out for #1. Asserting oneself and making others aware of how important you are is a cultural value in my culture, and I’m so good at it that I can just plain overlook people that don’t seem important to me.

Example: on the first official night of our project, our group was walking across a road in Houston to the restaurant where we were going to eat dinner.  As we approached an exit ramp from the highway, I looked ahead to see how far the restaurant was and looked right past a man who was standing there asking for money. A few minutes later, I noticed that two students were missing from our group and was honestly a little frustrated by the fact that they had wandered off. I turned around, though, and saw that they were standing next to the homeless man, and it looked like they were praying. When I asked later what they had been doing, they said that they wanted to hear his story, see if they could help, and pray with him.  It was only during that conversation that I really thought about that man as a person with a story and emotions.

Not only does that story illustrate something that can be really sinful in me (the ability to simply overlook people) but it also illustrates something beautiful about the Destino students I spent the summer with. They see people. That is not simply to say that they have good eyesight, but that they notice  people and care about their stories and lives.

After seeing this time and time again on our project, I began to see this as one of the ways that God has uniquely gifted a lot of our students in Destino. He’s given them eyes to see people that no one else sees. He’s given them hearts that care about the forgotten, the marginalized, and the poor.  In this way, and others, I could see Jesus’ heart in a lot of our students. Because, after all, He is “the God who sees me.” And I think He’s using Destino students to display that to the hurting, tired, poor,  and forgotten.

Casey is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.  Originally posted on her blog.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Missions, 0 comments
For We are God’s Workmanship—Part 1

For We are God’s Workmanship—Part 1

On our Destino Summer Mission to the Dominican Republic this year, our theme verse was Ephesians 2:10, which says “For we are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to.” We spent a lot of time unpacking just what it means to be “God’s workmanship” (or “masterpiece” as some translations say) and also what it means that He has good works already prepared for us to do.  How beautiful is the truth that we are created uniquely like a work of art, and that we are created for a purpose.

It was really fun to be a leader on a trip like this because I got to know a lot of the students on a deeper level and see how God has made them unique. I was able to learn about their struggles and the ways in which they are broken but I also got to see the ways in which God has made them in His image. I began to see them as a work of art.

“For we are Gods workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to.”

As a way to tell you more about our mission, I want to do a series of posts that explain some of the ways that I saw the different students on our project display aspects of God’s character.  As a part of this, I also want to tell you about ways I can see God’s character in Latino cultures. So often, if we don’t know a culture very well, it’s easy to see only the bad things, or only the things that are hard for us to understand. So I want to help you see our students from our perspective, so that you can see some of the ways God has uniquely gifted them in their culture.

I hope you enjoy and that you join us in worshipping the God who made all of us as a masterpiece and prepared good works in advance for us to do!

Casey is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.  Originally posted on her blog.

Posted by Devin Tressler in Culturally Connected, Missions, 0 comments