I’m writing this article from a tiny Sunday School room in Primera Iglesia Bautista, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
One of the things that surprises me when I go speak somewhere on behalf of this publication is that people are shocked to find out I work as a missionary and only write these articles as an extracurricular activity. They are, as my grandmother would say, “befuddled.”
I don’t make my living as a professional writer. If I quit writing, I’d be ahead financially. I’ve probably given away more books than I’ve sold. I always joke that my books sell for $20, but, normally, they don’t sell, so I give them away.
I spend most of my time as president of Awe Star Ministries challenging students to lay down their adolescence and step into the adult world. In other words, I call them to become like Jesus. I take them out of their comfort zone and give them the choice either to follow Jesus as an adult, or go home.
This generation doesn’t do well with suggestions. For them to change, they need something radical to embrace. I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve written about what I do, but to this day, many readers will say, “I had no idea.” So allow me to explain once again.
I have the privilege of serving a ministry that not only sends students overseas, but one that also pioneered the concept of taking students on a rite of passage journey. Our mission trips provide students with equal parts skills and knowledge in walking out their lives as adults.
Does this process work? I can line up 1,000 parents who will tell you what a dramatic change happened in their child’s life after one of our mission trips. Yes, it works. And yes, it is biblical.
Today, I’m with 49 students who decided they wanted to spend their Christmas break on a rite of passage journey. I rarely encounter a student who doesn’t have a desire to leave behind this concept called adolescence and embrace his or her adulthood.
You see, no teenager really wants to be a teenager. Teens want to be treated like adults, even act like adults, but they don’t know how. I guess you could call me a traveling mentor.
For a successful trip, I need the students to leave the conveniences of home behind. I teach them to live a contented life with as few material things as possible. Ultimately, I want them to learn to be satisfied with Jesus alone.
But to accomplish my task, I have to model this lifestyle. So many incredible things come together to accomplish this rite of passage transformation. Missions is the greatest vehicle to allow it to take place, and that is a win-win. While the students are learning how to be adults, they’re planting churches around the world. And an extra blessing for me is that all the easy spots are already taken. To make a bigger impact on the world, we must go farther out and into more difficult living conditions. The greater the difficulty, the greater the change we see in our students’ lives, and the more impact our teaching has.
I take these students into remote parts of the world where there is no electricity, no Internet, no cell phone signals, no high-definition television. Soon, even their batteries will run out. And when that happens, God shows up. I want to get them to the point where the only thing left that has power is the Word of God.
No matter how far away from what we call civilization I go, the one thing that never loses its power is God’s Holy Word. It is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). It is alive and active, sharper than a two-edged sword and guaranteed never to dull. It is truer than the North Star and is never off- plumb.
I want to see these students come to a point in their lives where Psalm 86:11 becomes their heart cry: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
In Alaska, they use a term for living way far away from any type of creature comforts: off the grid. The only problem with that is you can’t be truly off the grid when you know you have a God who has said He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).
As you start out the New Year, please add this generation to your prayer list. We need to reach them before the enemy takes them off the grid.