“Hands On” is more than just a program title

Hands On is a program with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Hands On is a semester long program for American college students who have completed their first year in college. It’s taking a week-long mission trip and adding steroids. Student work with missionaries all over the world including Europe, Russia, Africa, Australia and Asia. This semester, God has blessed us with such a great team. Their “job assignment” (something I detest calling it) is simply to make friends with people. And they’ve been doing that through:

*Unisinos University
*Free Hugs
*Game Nights on campus
*Conversation classes on campus
*FEEVALE University
*Portuguese classes at Achieve Languages
*Assisting in conversation classes at Achieve
*Day trips to Porto Alegre with friends; rafting with friends, sharing meals with friends
*Overnight trip to Uruguay with friends
*Playing baseball, frisbee and ping pong
*Beginning a weekly Bible study on campus
*Beginning a weekly Bible study in our home
*Beginning a weekly Bible study in another home
*Bible studies with students outside of campus
*Prayer walking campuses, cities and neighborhoods

I could go on and on and on. The pictures below represent a small part of their ministry. Melody and I believe the “secret sauce” of sharing Christ is simply to follow Jesus’ example of going into the city, the community and, for us, the campus. We look for needs, how we can give back. But we do more than just give back to make ourselves feel good. We look for opportunities, naturally in conversation, where we can share our faith in Christ. We’re always asked, “Why are you here?” And that leads to us sharing about Jesus and about Zoe. We never argue, get in people’s faces or prove a point to share the gospel. We actually listen.

Hands On is a tremendous program that I wish more students would take advantage of. Melody and I purposefully do our best to get close to our “interns” because we want them to be part of our family. In just a month, they’ll be headed back to the USA. Trying to share all that God has done and how God has changed their lives will be difficult. Things have changed, life has gone on for everyone. It’s like a time warp. Pray for Hannah, Taylor, Stewart and Hannah that they’ll make the most of their time here. Pray for their friends here and for the families in the USA.

Catching up…

And Zoe is off! It’s been an amazing adventure that continues each and every week. If, when we landed in July of last year, I had seen all that God was going to do up to this point, I would have given you the “deer in the headlights” look. God has been faithful, more faithful than I could ever have dreamed. And that’s just like him, isn’t it? When we pray, we should go to him expectantly. I think sometimes it’s just the unknown of wondering how God is going to answer our prayers. But when we pray asking him, we should have the right heart in our asking and our expectations.

The focus of Zoe, which means “abundant life” in Greek, is in the mission of God. Jesus was sent by God to go after us. And just like Jesus, we’re to go after people. But when I say “go after,” I’m not talking about standing on a street corner preaching, or handing out tracts or trying to prove someone else is wrong. I’m talking living as Jesus would if he were around physically today. He’d be going into the community, the city and on campus. He would be looking for needs he could meet. He would take opportunities to share himself, about salvation, about eternal life. Just as God sent Jesus, Jesus sends us.

Jesus didn’t invite people to church. Jesus invited the church to the people.

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The church doesn’t have a mission. The mission has a church. And we believe that happens 24/7, not just on the weekends. So we’ve gone on two campuses seeking how we can serve. God’s been so faithful in that we’ve been invited back week after week on two campuses to help in English classes. But we’ve also been in English schools and even at the gym God has opened up conversations with people. What’s fun are the random conversations at bus stops. Who does that? It’s not on our own but the God of Matthew 19.26, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

A few weeks ago we began Zoe na Universidade, a simple Bible study at Unisinos. And then 5 weeks ago Zoe em Casa was born. Zoe em Casa is geared toward the Christian, as the first church in the book of Acts. The first church came together and shared everything from food, prayer requests and stories of where they’ve seen God working. We do the same. And God is blessing far more than I could ever have imagined.

Churches in Zurich

Since having the privilege of visiting cities in Europe, I’ve come to appreciate my seminary church history classes even more so. Zurich is full of large church buildings dating hundreds of years. It’s fascinating to see wealthy business people dining in outdoor cafes next door to churches from the 1500s. Thankfully, these churches are still in use today, well preserved and open for visitors.

Zwingli of Zurich!

If I take away anything from my travels to Europe, it’s my greater appreciation for history and architecture. I took advantage of my 14-hour layover in Zurich a few days ago. I was traveling from London heading home to Sao Leopoldo. Church history has such greater meaning when you’re actually able to visit these cities, touch and see actual buildings and imagine the time period. Huldrych Zwingli is known as one of the leaders of the Protestant Revolution. He pastored Grossmünster in Zurich for 12 years where he began to preach about Catholic Church reforms. This is where it started. Fascinating to be able to spend a few minutes here.

Hands On is best, hands down!

Hands On is a program with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s like an exchange program where American college students, who have completed their first year, can spend at least an entire semester in different parts of the world. Melody and I have hosted students in Sao Paulo and now here in Sao Leopoldo. This semester, we’ve been blessed with 5 and they have been so much fun. Hannah, Taylor, Hannah, Daniel and Stewart are making friends on campus, hanging out wherever students are. We’re starting a new ministry here, Zoe, which is another story. It’s church with a twist. Hands On is an amazing link for us to get to know students. Just wanted to share a few pictures.

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He never said that

Most people have likely heard the old adage attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel to all the world and, if necessary, use words.” I’ve used that quote from time to time. I think a lot of Christ followers have been relieved believing they can share their faith without opening their mouths. But here’s the thing.

assissiFrancis never said it.

Francis never wrote it.

None of his disciples, early or later biographers have these words coming from his mouth. It doesn’t show up in any of his writings. Not even close really. The closest comes from his Rule of 1221, Chapter XII on how the Franciscans should practice their preaching:

No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister . . . All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds.

-Geore Stanton, The Gospel Coalition

Having written that, I do believe our lives should wreak of a difference. People should be able to tell by the way we live our lives that there is something different. What we say, how we say it, where we go, how we act and react should be different.

And that’s where we are with our Hands On crew. They don’t speak Portuguese! So, getting back to the non-quote by our buddy Francis, you know, it kinda fits right now!

You’d be proud of them. They’re on campus today prayer walking on ULBRA and Unisinos. They’re eating lunch in student centers looking to sit with Brazilian students and make a friend. A couple of them are playing Frisbee tossing the disc to any random person! Some are setting up at a coffee shop with a sign, which reads “Free English”. They’re looking for people who want to hang out. Maybe they speak English, maybe not. And though our friends speak little to no Portuguese, they are learners and are doing their best to do so. And in so learning, they’re able to share.

It’s cool the way God works, isn’t it? God calls us to be creative and we’re pushing ourselves (Melody, Michael and I included!) to be creative. Would you believe we’re looking to do a life sized Angry Birds game? Imagine the conversations when people walk up and say, “What in the world is this? Who are you?” I really want to do a giant Jenga! We’re working on it.

Bottom line is this. They are sharing the gospel…in words and deeds. It’s cool to see how the lives of 5 university students have changed in just a few weeks time. It’s fun to see God burst through them as if he’s saying, “Trust me. Now, watch this!”

Matthew 19.26, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Words are necessary but when you don’t have ‘em, get creative!

-Chris