Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Kingdom of God Is Like a Mango Tree in Guaimaca: Reflections on Honduras Youth Partnership 2013

There are two prominent figures that overlook the market and downtown Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The first, El Cristo del Picacho, is located in a beautiful park with an incredible view of the capital city. It costs 10 Lempiras (roughly $.50) to see this Jesus, which seems to debunk any theology about salvation being free.

The second is a yellow house on the opposite hill, which is home to one of the more prominent drug lords in Honduras. Everyone knows he lives there; he simply has paid-off police and other law enforcement to ensure security for his residence and dealings.

In between these two cultural "icons" is a plaza buzzing with activity. The streets of this plaza serve as residence for many of Honduras' most marginalized and ignored.

There are the "glue boys," homeless youth who flee domestic distress and develop addictions to yellow shoe glue that provides a cheap daily high. Most pay no attention to kids like Mil AƱos, a young boy nicknamed for his aged face that results from his addiction. Micah Project, instead, calls them family and extends them invitations into their community where they can be lifted from addiction, receive an education, and discover the love of God in Jesus.

The plaza is also home to a young leper, who sits at the main entrance of a Catholic Church. Our youth took notice and offered him hot food, cold water, and quite possibly the only expression of hospitality and affection he encountered all day. Talk about a story that will preach!

Then there are the severely physically handicapped, aged "glue boys," homeless old women, and a long line of others. As our youth walked with leaders from Micah Project throughout the streets of this Honduran Central Park, stories of Scripture came alive. It was almost too much for some of our youth.

And we remembered those overlooking the city, symbols of liberation and oppression. We were in the space between them, a very thin place where we could hear echoes of the benediction from the previous night's debriefing:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships. May God bless you so that you may live from deep within your heart where God's Spirit dwells...And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you'll have all the strength necessary." (Franciscan Blessing)

It is true, Honduras is a country in distress. The nation is plagued with political corruption, insufficient education, significant malnutrition, pervasive poverty, increasing drug-related violence, and a police force confused about who to defend- drug lords or vulnerable citizens?

It is also true that beauty, love, and hope are sprouting up like mango trees in the back yards of Guaimaca homes, an hour outside the urban center. If we are not paying careful attention, we may miss these stories and the sweet attestations to the kingdom of God falling from their branches.

Each day of our evolving youth-to-youth partnership in Honduras began and ended with cross and resurrection stories. Youth were invited to share where they encountered suffering and despair and where their eyes and ears were opened to signs of God's hope and redemption.

I am convinced this should become a daily, personal and corporate discipline. The temptation is to either fix our eyes on Cristo del Picacho and forget the drug lords wreaking havoc behind us or be overwhelmed by the drug lords and others just like him, unaware that Jesus has entered into real human suffering and promised all of us new creation.

The call of disciples of Jesus is to live in the spaces between Picacho and that yellow house on the hill, or at least make pilgrimages of partnership there, with an honest and awakened hope that this new creation can and must begin now.

And I am firmly convinced that this especially begins though the youth of our respective communities.

Here Are Some Resurrection Stories from Year Three of Our Partnership in Honduras

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Essential and Affordable Youth Ministry Apps: What Did Youth Pastors Do Before the iPhone?

I have had my moments of creativity, developing quirky and fun games for those Sunday night youth groups or long van rides to youth retreats and conferences. Facebook Frenzy. Imago Fame. Price Is Right. Do You Know the 12 Disciples...and Other Fun Facts. The list goes on. I would be glad to share any of these ideas with you.

But I feel my gift really is in teaching. I prefer writing Bible studies, developing engaging curriculum, crafting formative devotionals, preparing interactive youth talks, delivering thoughtful sermons, and working through clever conversation starters that invite youth to dig deeper into Jesus' call on their lives.

Yet fun games and comical activities are vital to youth ministry. They break down barriers and remind youth that part of discipleship is getting the most out of life and finding joy in the simple things.

Thankfully, the iPhone, iPad, and App Store have allowed me to spend more time on what I am gifted for and borrow the brilliance of app developers to make youth ministry travel, weekly drop-ins, or long flights to Honduras all the more entertaining. These apps have provided platforms to strengthening relationships with regular and new youth in Imago Dei Youth Ministry.

Here are a few of my favorite iPhone apps I consider essential for youth workers and youth pastors looking for quick, easy, and playful interactions with youth in their ministries. Thanks to some of the youth and adult leaders who recommended a few of these:

Heads Up! Yep, this is the one made famous by Ellen DeGeneres. A variation of charades, this app costs a mere $.99 and will provide endless entertainment. The app has a variety of categories and even keeps score and records video of the "actor," which can be posted on Facebook or Twitter. Pretty clever. (iPhone only, but I upload and enlarge on iPad for group use)
Charades! A free and less flashy version of Heads Up. Simple. Easy. Awesome.
The American Bible Challenge. Straight from the Game Show Network and featuring the voice of Jeff Foxworthy, this game tests your youth and leaders in basic and more difficult Bible trivia. Great for car rides and before Bible studies or Sunday School. I frequently project onto a screen or wall through iPad for larger groups. (iphone only, but can then downlod and enlarge on iPad)
Pic Stitch. A great way to create collages of trip photos to be posted on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Parents and youth love to see what you are up to as a ministry with youth.
Sound Effects. Just for fun. That's all.
Air Hockey Gold. Exactly what you think it is. One player or multi player. You can even play over Game Center. Pretty epic!
Best of: Fact or Fiction? I question their source of information- probably Wikipedia :) Nonetheless, the youth love to consider these obscure facts or fictions. You may want to filter some of the questions before you ask them. This one has saved me from long and loud renditions of 99 Bottles of ________ on the wall...
Where's Waldo? Yes, we are still looking. I have used this on the big screen before Sunday school, as there is a competitive version where you try to find objects and characters before your opponent does the same. I have also navigated the individual adventures on flights home from Honduras. It's kind of addicting but still cheap.




For another related post, see Josh Gill's post, The Best Travel Apps for Summer Camp


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Reading 2013: How Much Will My Toddlers Actually Allow Me to Read?

Ambitious, I know! Having a summer reading list when trying to raise toddler twins is like attempting to walk over a cable stretched across the Grand Canyon. Only difference being while I try to cross, two sets of tiny hands shake the cable from both sides of the ravine. I may even have to hop over a stray lego or baby doll and thus surpass Nik Wallenda's level of difficulty.

Despite the boldness or unattainable nature, here is what I am reading (or attempting to read) this summer. Feel free to also check me out on Good Reads.

Love Does by Bob Goff

Honest Toddler by Bunmi Laditan

Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma

The Faith of Leap by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost

Let Justice Roll by John Perkins

The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activist and Bishops Who Tweet by Brandon Vogt

The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

The Theological Journey through Youth Ministry Series by Andrew Root

The Relational Pastor by Andrew Root

The Best Bible Study You've N/ever Had (What Does the Bible Actually Say?) by Brad Wortz