This summer has been one for the ages. Not only for our students but for myself. I figured the best way to recap this past summer of my life in ministry is by working backwards, so today I'll start with Sifat.
Sifat (Servants In Faith And Technology) is an organization in Lineville, Alabama that teaches appropriate technology (using strictly the environment and resources around you to create a more sustainable living) in difficult places in our world. To learn more about exactly what they do you can visit their website HERE.
Sifat is something I always heard so much about for years and years (and so many other friends of mine before me could tell you even more about it than I ever could). After much prayer, it was something I felt God leading our ministry to participate in.
We took part in their Learn & Serve Camp which is essentially a 3rd world simulation camp.
I'm not here to go through every single detail because it is really something you have to experience for yourself. But I will say it is unlike anything, and I do mean ANY-THING, you can ever go through in youth ministry.
After going through things like living through a slum experience (which is incredibly similar to a real slum you'd find around the world in poor areas) and the global village (living in a hut-style home designed like many people's homes in another country's would be, and learning how to provide food, water and shelter so we could survive those 2 days. Yes we were hungry. Yes we were tired. And yes, my goodness, did we smell) my eyes were opened but to lessons I assumed I already knew.
They were two phrases that kept coming from the Sifat staff.
1. Empathy, not sympathy.
We often feel bad for those who are hurting. We feel sympathetic to them but in the process we are looking down upon them. Instead, we should feel with them. Just as Christ feels with us.
Because when we feel their pain we then are willing to take their burden on as our own. And we can do something about it.
We can speak. We can ray. We can be active.
The country that we focused on learning about and praying for this year was South Sudan. South Sudan is the newest country in the world, yet also the poorest and considered to be the most dangerous and violent places with it currently being on the brink of a war.
It's probably something you might not even know about. I know I didn't. But we were told the best thing we can do right now is talk about it. And to pray. And that's what I hope to do.
To shine a light on a place in desperate need and to bring awareness about the situation to your reality.
And I pray that God might be able to use me to do that in the future for other places and people I have no idea of in desperate need.
So then the obvious question comes, "how can you take this experience back with you and make it relevant in your every day life?"
2. Think Globally. Act Locally.
It starts with presence.
If we can give everything of ourselves for the sake and love of who Jesus is by sharing that with others that are in front of us we can make an impact that spreads across the globe.
That is the idea that Sifat and I personally have and one that I think Christ Himself stands for.
Because true presence is one that calls us to be present in our hearts. With those in front of us and with those we feel with across the world.
What Sifat Showed
Above all, Sifat taught me to be persistent in my faith. I knew God put this camp on my heart and brain for a reason. I knew He was going to do amazing things unlike anything we've ever gone through as a ministry. I had some doubts. Had some pushback. But God proved that all wrong once again.
My proof? It lies with the students. I obviously don't have the time nor do I want to speak for them, but I'll tell you this.
Nearly all wouldn't stop talking about it for the 13 hour drive back. They wouldn't stop sharing their experiences. They wouldn't stop sharing what they learned. And they wouldn't stop sharing how their faith in Jesus grew. To each other. To their Sunday school class. To their parents. To their friends outside of the church. On social media.
I witnessed each of these happening over and over. I haven't seen it stop.
They have started their journey of thinking globally while acting locally. And I can't wait to continue to see what that entails.
God is doing amazing things in our students.
And, somehow, someway, God is still doing things through me. (Which I'll share more about tomorrow and Thursday.)
Thank you, Lord.
Choir Tour Pt. 2 of Summer coming tomorrow.
***(IF YOU WOULD, PLEASE PRAY FOR SOUTH SUDAN AND THE DIFFICULTIES THEY'RE SUFFERING THROUGH AS A NATION. MAY GOD PROVIDE COMFORT AND BE A BEACON OF HOPE & TRUTH TO THEIR PEOPLE.)***