Saturday, May 16, 2015

Guest Post by Kazu on the Mexico Mission Trip

I went to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, during spring break. Usually, I don't want to share my thoughts with others because someone can tease me if I talk about something important seriously. But this time, I'm willing to be made fun of. I hope someone can grasp a part of my opinions.

We were involved in building school there, for example painting, digging, and constructing wall. I belonged to the brick team and built wall there. Still, we cannot say the construction of school is completed, but I believe we could did a good job for Mexican children. I won't be able to partake in the trip next time, so I really want a lot of students to join in it till school is perfectly built.

Also, I was glad to have opportunities to think about the Christian religion through the assigned reading and discussion on the roof. Japanese people are often said to be kind and friendly, but I don't think so. I feel most Japanese including me pay attention to our personal space and don't go out of our comfort zone. I must be a person who can be more capable of sustaining others. I would like to say that this life is for others as well as for me.

In this trip, I decided to act instinctively rather than rationally. That's why I was much more active and talkative than I had been. Hence, I could get acquainted with a lot of people in short time although Ryo and Misae might get fed up with me. I was happy to absorb many kinds of things because of being crazy.

In the town, I saw a lot of differences in socioeconomic status and recognized the fact I have grown up in a favorable environment. I knew I had lived a happy life compared to people in developing countries, but the fact I saw was impacting me more strongly than I expected.

Of course, we cannot make everyone in this world happy easily. The thing we can do may be limited. But I just felt this world should be for all people's happiness. We cannot achieve this goal easily. However, we can walk into this goal. I hope my word will be the one step toward this goal. Let's start with changing our perception!

-Kazuaki Shimada

Friday, May 8, 2015

Christian Challenge Spring Break 2015 Update!

      This update is a little late but we wanted to update you on the mission trips our students went on this year over spring break. We sent teams to Denver and Juarez. Quite frankly, God did some pretty amazing things for those being ministered to and for our students as well.

      A little back story on how the mission trips came about. Josh has had a relationship with a school down in Juarez for years. The school is free private school for all kids in the area as long as the parents put in some hours helping the school out. It’s one of the few safe and positive places in Juarez for these kids. In safer times, the school would have lots of mission teams come down and work, with the kids and on building projects. After the cartel violence escalated, the mission teams disappeared.

      Despite what people see on the news, Juarez is safe as long as you don’t go into bad areas. We are now one of the only groups that heads down there to help the school out.

      We also sent a team to Denver to do ministry in the inner-city. We offer the Denver option because we know a lot of parents won’t allow their kids to go to a place like Juarez. That’s understandable but we don’t want students who have a passion to serve Christ losing out on a mission trip opportunity. Our Denver team worked in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and in low-income housing areas sharing the Gospel and serving those in need. It was eye opening our students in that they realized there are ministry opportunities right in their backyard. They didn’t have to go overseas to be used of God.

     Our Juarez team of eleven headed down to Mexico during that same time-frame. The team consisted of seven believers and four non-believers. Our days were filled with long hours of building projects and playing with kids as much as possible. The evenings consisted of assisting another team from a Christian high school in Denver with different ministry events for the community. We always ended the night on the roof top sharing highs and lows, as well as pondering and sharing thoughts on an assigned scripture for the day. All of our students, including our non-Christian ones, had good insight and opinions. On the last day, we weren’t going to have a scripture reading, due to us needing to pack and get on the road the next morning really early. Kazu, one of our Japanese, non-Christian students, requested that we have one anyways!

     There were so many things that I loved about the trip. We had an incredible team. The eleven of us got along very well all week. I credit that to God. He really made the team one. We loved one another well. It was really cool watching each student throughout the week. The way they loved on the children, the way they interacted with each other, how hard they worked. They took great interest in the local people and their way of life. I believe God was at work in each student’s life, from the believers to those who do not believe yet.

     I’ll leave you with a couple of short quotes from students on what they learned from the trip.

     Kazu: This trip opened my eyes to how selfish I’ve been. How good my life has been. But now I should focus on others and helping them.

     Lane: I didn’t use to see the point in humanitarian trips/mission trips. But I can see the need to help others now.

     Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that! Keep FLC in your prayers!

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

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     So we had a pretty good report in our last update. Unfortunately, a couple days after sending out the last update, the issues came back. So keep praying for our septic system. I'm going to try some more pipe hair remover soon and see if that fixes things again. Be praying for our well as that is dry again. Thankfully, there's been moisture in the area so that should help at least a little.

     Our new war is against an old enemy, mice and pack rats. They have come out of hibernation with the warmer temperatures. We plugged up all of their access points into the house but can now hear them throughout our walls clawing and biting trying to get through the drywall. We've got traps and poison set up under the house. The traps catch them every now and then. They are also eating the poison...and then dying in our walls making our house smell not so pleasant at times. When we moved in, it seemed the last owner clearly let them run rampant throughout the house. They seem very unhappy that they can't do that anymore. Pray that we can get the upper-hand on them and that their activity dies down.


     Praise that God kept everyone safe on the mission trips!

     Pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to grow our students in their faith and that they'd stay strong in it.

     Pray that God would continue to reveal Himself to the students who have not yet put their trust in Him.

     Pray for Misae and her family. Misae was on the mission trip to Juarez. In mid-April, she got word that her dad had a stroke. She left Durango early to be at his side. Pray that her and her family would have strength and comfort to get through this tough time. As far as we understand, it was a very severe stroke. At the time, they didn't know if he was going to make it. Pray that God would do a big miracle and that her dad would have a complete recovery.

Rachel and Mike-

     Pray that we would get positive answers concerning our medical concerns. We may have some good leads but it's too early to tell just yet. (Include Josh with his medical stuff in those prayers as well.)

     Pray that we would make time to rest and not get burnt out by the busy nature of ministry.

     Pray that God would open doors for us after the semester as we begin the support raising process again and that it would be fruitful.

     Pray that our marriage would stay strong, keeping God always at the center of it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Body of Evidence

     I'm a pretty skeptical guy nowadays but I didn't always used to be that way.  Growing up, I was intrigued by ghosts, UFOs, bigfoot, etc.  I loved the paranormal, the unknown, the mythical.

     Over the years though, that changed.  It's not that those things aren't interesting to me.  I'll admit, I've been known to sneak a listen into Coast to Coast AM a few times.  It's at least good for a laugh.  And don't worry, I wore my tinfoil hat just in case while listening.

     All joking aside though, throughout my life, I've become more and more skeptical.  Now, you should grow smarter and wiser as you age and I think that's part of it.  I also credit a big part of my skepticism shows like Ghost Hunters.  When the show first started out, their goal was to disprove hauntings.  This was a totally new concept to me.  Disprove instead of trying to prove.  Something clicked.  After years of buying into whatever I read, saw or was taught, I started thinking critically.

     Sadly, it took me getting away from college to finalize full movement into critical thinking.  Colleges pretend to teach students to think critically but really they just want regurgitation.  Profs want you to believe what they believe.  If you think outside of that, they flunk you or give you bad grades.  Thankfully, I escaped with a degree and finally the freedom to think for myself.  That's not to say I didn't learn anything worthwhile...or that all of my profs were terrible.  Some of mine were pretty great.

     One actually made a documentary on bigfoot.  It was interesting.  It was funny.  They at one point thought they were being chased by a bigfoot.  Looking back, that in itself is pretty funny.  I remember the colorful language about how they needed to drop the apples or bigfoot would get them.  Just wow.

     When it comes to bigfoot, I'm agnostic.  I'm very skeptical.  I used to believe 100%.  Now, not so much.  Cheesy bigfoot shows make me want to believe even less.  I think it's possible something big and undiscovered is out there but I think for the most part, it's hoaxes and misidentifications that drive the myth.  Those television shows on bigfoot only reinforce my suspicions.  I've been all over the wilderness here.  Heck, I live in the wilderness.  I've seen plenty of bears, elk, moose, and even the extremely scarce wolverine...but I've never seen bigfoot.  I've never even seen a shred of evidence for one.  I've seen and heard weird things but nothing that would lead me to believe it was bigfoot.  Sure, there is plenty of supposed bigfoot footage but it can be so easily faked and most are crappy fakes at that.

     So what would make me believe without a doubt?  Only a body would do that.  You bring me a body and that would settle all doubts.  Still, after years and years of searching, there's never been a body found and studied.  I think for most, if you produce a real body, people will believe.  Discussion over.

     For those of you thinking this article would end there, bad news.  It continues!  This article isn't actually about bigfoot.  It's about Jesus!  Surprise!  Before you write me emails, I'm not saying Jesus is just a myth.  Quite the contrary.  To prove Jesus and the Bible wrong, all you would have to do is produce a body.  Certainly, there have been many who have tried and searched but after 2000 years, nobody has done that yet.  No one has ever found a body.

     Sure, that's a pretty tough task in today's day and age.  But think back 2000 years ago.  Think back just after Jesus died and news started spreading that He had resurrected.  The claim was that the tomb was empty and Jesus was walking amongst the living again.  People were seeing Him.  There were sightings.  And people were converting like never before.

     The pharisees, the guys who hated Jesus so much that they had Him killed to stop His did they feel to see thousands still converting?  The same anger that killed Jesus still burned in their hearts.  They were furious so they had more and more people who had been spreading the news of Jesus killed.

     But why go that route?  Why keep killing when there was such an easier way to end it all, to put a stop to the movement?  Produce a body.  That's all they had to do.  "Look, your leader is still dead.  Here is the proof."  Just go down to the tomb and pull the body out.  Easy as that.  It's not like they didn't know where the tomb was.  It was accessible.

     Christianity hinges on the resurrection and if there is no resurrection, Christianity is dead.  If Jesus is still in the tomb, Christianity is dead.  The only reason the pharisees didn't offer His body as proof is because they like everyone else knew that the tomb was indeed empty.  There was no body in there to produce.  Some would say that the body was stolen but a whole lot of Roman guards guarding the tomb.  How do you sneak past, at the time, the best trained soldiers in the world?  How do you roll a huge stone away from a tomb and steal a body without anyone hearing?  Who would even steal it?  The disciples?  The disciples didn't really even understand that Jesus was coming back until He actually came back.  And it doesn't make sense to risk stealing it for some hoax.  People don't really risk death to keep a known lie alive.

     The pharisees couldn't explain it at all either.  That's why their first thought was to keep killing.  Dead people don't ask questions.  Dead people can't talk to spread movements.  Eventually though, there was a little voice of reason amongst the pharisees for a moment.

     "34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus."  Acts 5: 34-42 ESV

     That day, all the had to do was produce a body.  It would have stopped the movement cold in it's tracks.  Clearly, there were some doubts by this point even amongst the pharisees.  You don't go along with the guy claiming God just might be with those preaching Jesus if there wasn't some doubt.  There was a creeping suspicion that there might be something to this Jesus thing.  But these are the guys who had just had Jesus crucified.  Most of them were so sure then.  They knew they had killed Him but something was fishy, pun intended.  What evidence or lack thereof had caused the group to start doubting?  Maybe it started with them not having a body to cling to.  They could not prove the apostles wrong.  In the end, they lacked a body of evidence to move forward and kill off Christianity in its infancy.

     Sorry pharisees...and bigfoot enthusiasts.  No body, no proof.