Today we are wrapping up our mission trip with a little bit of rest and relaxation. After spending the first part of the week giving a 110%, our students deserve a much needed break.

Every time I take students on a trip like this, and truthfully just about every time I get to spend time with my students, I am taken back by what a blessed man I am. Truthfully, I have the best job in the world. And this trip is the best parts of my job all wrapped up and condensed into one week.

Building Community:
You may not realize it, but building community is an art form. It is something that takes continuous effort and care. It is something that can not be neglected. And building community is my bread and butter. I love, love, love, creating environments, making space, creating memories that draw students together and create a sense of family.

A trip like this can either bring together a group, or the drama factor can kill it right in its tracks. We managed to have zero drama, zero romance, a lot of laughing, and plenty of dance parties. I love these students and I love the community that we have built. I hold sacred the traditions we have built and the larger story of faith and of our student ministry that gets worked out. Our incoming senior class stepped up in huge ways and is ready to lead!

Spiritual Transformation:
It is so pickin' difficult to get students to slow down, un plug, and be quiet. And without making space for students to be reflective, there is no way they will be able to encounter God. For all the work that we did, we managed to create some peace and quiet, some silence and reflection, and the fruit of that has been overwhelming.

Students have had the opportunity to reflect daily on where they have seen God show up. And in just a short week of daily living into this discipline, I am noticing an increased level of spiritual receptivity. I am watching our students serve and care for one another and some of my most difficult students embrace God or at least be willing to wrestle with Him.

Jesus is grabbing a hold of our kids and giving them a much bigger picture of faith, of the church, and of ministry. It is such an honor to be a small part of these students spiritual awakening as they figure out their faith.

Life altering experiences:
One of the students on this trip was actually born in Guatemala and abandoned at a hospital. After going from orphanage to orphanage he was finally adopted by a family in America, in Marin. He has never been to Guatemala, he has absolutely zero cultural touch points.

It has been incredible to watch as this students' eyes are opened up to his roots. He is soaking up this experience, and receiving endless love from the Guatemalan couple who are facilitating this trip for us. What is even more incredible is that our group decided to give up one of our touristy activities so that we could, as a group, attempt to find the hospital where this student was born. So on Saturday, before we hit the airport, we will get to go to the hospital, and even get to go into the maternity ward and see where abandoned babies are left. It is going to be an incredible and powerful moment! I am blown away that I get to be a part of it.

There is so much more:
However, being that it's the end of the trip and I am officially sleep deprived, I will wrap it up.

The truth is, I could go on and on with all the things I love about my job. I am honored to be called into student ministry, and I am honored to do it at such an amazing church like Marin Covenant. I can not believe that God allows a weak an broken vessel, like myself, to be used as part of the spiritual development of these students!

As we reenter our community and get back to life as normal, please pray that we would continue to be sensitive to the spirit of God and faithful to follow through in the ways and places He leads.

Thank you for your prayers and support this week! I am looking forward to landing back in SFO and getting some much needed rest. See you Sunday at church, or later this week for coffee, or Wednesday night at youth group, or around the intra-web. :)


This is not how I would do it.

I am the best leader I know
One of the hardest things about being a leader is the burden of always being right. It seems that whatever group of people I am working with, I have the best ideas and know what should happen next. When I am the true leader of every part of something, like my student ministry, I get to fully live into my brilliance. But most of the time I am sharing leadership with others who, in their mind, is also the smartest person in the room.

In the church context, we have senior pastors who are leaders doing the best they can. As youth workers we love to sit back and judge what a poor job they are doing and share that with others so our friends know how brilliant we are, and dumb they are.

In a missions context, we share leadership with a local church or organization that has come up with a plan that makes total sense to them. Because it is missions it seems like our definitions of best and smart are quite different. Let's be honest, the plan they come up, pales compared to my brilliance. And because I am insecure I don't want those around me to think that their poor idea is mine. To make this clear, the easiest solution is to blow up their obvious incompetence with my friends and those I lead.

Lets be honest for a second. While we know that this is actually poor leadership and you have enjoyed judging my self-righteousness, the truth is every leader I know is tempted to put others down in order to prove their own abilities and brilliance. But proving our brilliance is not the task of leadership.

Being the smartest guy in the room is not good leadership
Providing for, and shaping experiences so students will encounter Christ and partner more fully in the work of God is our task. For this to happen we have to take ourselves out of the mix. We must discern the heart of God in every curve ball we are thrown and help our students live into that.

The picture at the top of this post is the awful construction work our students are doing. One by one, students are hauling block and bags of gravel a quarter mile up a road to the place where the actual construction is happening. 10's of thousands of pounds of materials, one by one.

In 5 seconds I had a dozen solutions to efficiently move the pile of materials from point A to point B. After 10 minutes if attempting to help the process, I realized it was going to be a no go. For four days we were going to move this pile from point A to point B.

My natural leadership ability is to walk alongside my students, roll my eyes, and patronize those dummies for making us do this all week. You see, I don't want them to know this is my idea. But good leadership is helping our students live into the larger story of what they are doing. There is no way a family could move all this material by themselves. How pig headed to assume that they even have access to a truck. We are to be a blessing to others, to bring God's mercy and grace. And I am pretty sure that doing this well has nothing to do with me and my teams perception of my brilliance.

May we all be shock absorbers and buffers of grace when those we lead with lead differently the us. When those around us, those we partner with, those whom we must serve under don't live up to our expectations, may we have grace and serve them well. Because the truth is, everyone we lead has the same judgements about our leadership.

I am sorry that my students are hiking materials for four day, but I am thankful that I caught myself in time and didn't down talk our ministry partners so that our students could fully love, serve, and enjoy every part of this trip. Pray that they would have the strength to finish well. (Last day!)

We are not as cutting edge as we think

Our church leaders, my colleagues in ministry, and my circle of friends take ministry pretty seriously. We are always studying up, praying, and discerning in an continued effort to do the most effective, contextualized ministry that is aligned with the heart of God.

For the past few years those buzz words, I mean models, have been things like, missional, contextual, social justice, authenticity, and community. There is so much to be discussed, said, written on, and implemented surrounding these topics and values. I for one often think of myself as well read and on the early adopter side of ministry trends. So it is both refreshing and humbling to come to the hills of Guatemala and work alongside a church that is already doing all of this!

Here in Santa Apolonia we are partnered with Englesia del Belen (or something close to that) and this church, specifically the church leadership, embody many of the values and strategies that big wig church leaders and speakers are peddling as revolutionary at conferences like Thrive, Catalyst, Youth Workers, etc.

The head elder, a man named Julio, embodies who I want to be as a pastor, leader, and ministry leader in my context.

Every day our entire team gets to eat at his home. He moved out beds and furniture from two of his rooms even, so we would all fit. He makes time to connect with our students and warmly embraces them. It his Julio's hospitality that has inspired our students to work hard and practice hospitality themselves.

Julio is attractional in his ministry style by providing big and fun events for the community and for our students to engage one another. We played a huge soccer game with our students against some of the students from the church and their friends. It was a great night and at the end, Julio gathered us all together to bless us and pray for us. We are also opening up the church to have a celebratory dinner with the church and our team on Friday. This all by itself is great, but the students and kids that we have connected with throughout the week are welcomed as well.

Authentic and Deep:
The ministry at the church is also built around home groups. Just like you and I have small groups, they have those as well. It is these small groups that carry out ministry and care for each other and for the community. Tonight our kids get to go to 7 or 8 of these small groups and join the study, worship, and prayer.

What this church, through the leadership of Julio, does that is the most impressive to me is that they are fully involved in their community. They are members who are involved in politics, even the mayor, who see their role as ambassadors for Jesus and to attempt to model their lives and government around the values of Jesus. They are also being a blessing to their community by caring for the least of these in their town.

The little village up the hill is one of the poorest in Guatemala, and this church has taken it upon themselves to plant a church their, to upgrade the houses, bathrooms, and kitchens of those homes, and care for the elderly. They use their own recourses to do this, and when we came rolling in with our big, American dollars to spend, they funneled it to work projects in this little community.

Always Learning:
I am pretty sure that Julio hasn't been to seminar, been to a major conference, or even aware of some really inspiring podcasts. He is simply a man who knows and loves Jesus, who has decided to follow him for his entire life, to use his influence for the expansion of the kingdom and is modeling ministry that beats closely to the heart of Jesus.

Not bad for a grandpa!

I am glad that I get another picture of how church is done, of what godly women and men look like, and how we can continue to serve Jesus long after our early 20's. Julio is an amazing man, and it is an honor to partner with him and his church. His example is significant for me and for our students!

Please keep praying for us:
Please continue to pray our students and for me as we finish up another great day of ministry. And please pray for Englasia del Belen, Julio, and the ministry they are doing in Santa Apolonia and the little village on the hill.

From leader to facilitator

With all the hiccups that happen when traveling with 50 people, and most of them minors, we are finally all together getting dialed in for our arrival into Guatemala.

What hiccups you might ask?
Good question. In just the few short hours we have been traveling together, we have managed to get stopped in security for a student who "forgot" about a knife he had in his possession, a lost boarding pass, and two separate incidents of bags left behind. (You know, when you go to the food court, bathroom, or currency exchange and leave your bag behind.) Thankfully, God's grace has been overwhelming and so far these little hiccups just make us adults smile. :)

But with these opportunities for grace behind us, we are now trying to make best use of this time so we are honing our craft skills, doing some team bonding, and praying together. And as our students meet up in their teams, I have come to the realization that my role is already transitioning from team leader to facilitating team.

What I mean by this, is that for the past few months I have been herding cats, wrangling paperwork, lessons, crafts, songs, games, and more paperwork from my students. I have been the person in the front with a clipboard moving students from point A to point B. Now that we are quickly approaching point B, I am handing the reigns over to my student leaders. This is now their car to drive!

I could not be more proud of my three sets of student leaders. They are keeping tabs on their people, managing the group dynamic, and leading their team into deeper dependance on God. It is so fun watching these students get after it.

As a facilitator, my job is now to meet regularly with these student leaders, communicate well, clarify expectations, and ooze non-stop, specific affirmation. It is incredibly intimidating leading high school students, it is exponentially more intimidating leading high school students when they are your peers. And this is the role that these leaders are living into!

I am so aware and thankful of all the prayers and support of our church and my friends and family. Now that we are one more plane flight to actually being in Guatemala, putting into practice what we have been learning over these past few months, I would ask that you pray specifically for my student leaders.

These students, Tommy, Samantha, Bix, Sarah, Jessica, and Tristan are amazing and carrying a huge burden this trip. Pray for God's grace, wisdom, discernment, and guts. Pray that God would empower them and that they would live into the people that God so clearly has made them to be! And pray that they would love their team well, love them selflessly, with a servants heart, and find joy in empowering their peers for ministry!

It is an honor to be a part of this team, and a joy to fade into the background as our student leaders step up and step out!

Next stop Santa Apolonia.

PS: Please pray that God multiplies our rest as well. We arrive around 11:30 pm, and our day begins at 7:00 am on Monday! YES PLEASE!! #sleepwhenwearedead Thank you again for your support and prayers for this trip.