Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jubilee Reflections

Just for Janet -- another blog post! On a half-related note, it snowed last night in Pittsburgh -- my favorite kind of snow. The big, fat, fluffy kind that floats gently down out of the sky, piling up and covering everything with a peaceful blanket of white. My roommate described it perfectly when she said "It looks like Narnia outside!" I wanted to take pictures of it, but by the time I got home last night it was late and I just went to bed. Perhaps if the trees outside my apartment are still Narnia-esque when I get home, I'll take some and post them for you.

On Saturday I'll be leaving for another mission trip, this time to Bay St. Louis, MS with 18 college students. I love that students are willing to give up their spring break to go somewhere and do dirty work. Granted, it will be warmer in Mississippi, but I think their main concern is helping people, which is great.

A few weeks ago was the Jubilee Conference, yay! It is an absolutely awesome conference, and I say that not because I am on staff with the CCO, but because it is truly unique in its focus. It's really encouraging to hear other people talk excitedly about what we are doing, too. Not just so that we can toot our own horns, but because we truly believe this is so important.

The main stage speakers included Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Chuck Colson, Donald Miller, and Anthony Bradley. After the conference, Anthony posted the following on his blog about the CCO and the Jubilee Conference:

[Jubilee is] the only conference I know that combines the Biblical narrative of creation-fall- redemption-restoration and living missionally of any college ministry currently embedded on several college campuses. [Students were] meeting together for a weekend to talk about the implications of the the narrative of creation-fall-redemption-restoration for life in this world right now, today. This is unprecedented!!! They get it: creation-fall-redemption-restoration, mission! A passion for piety and the redemption of all of creation. A desire for personal
righteousness AND a desire to fight against evil and social injustice--to be true redeemers of culture.

Anthony also mentions something that is MY favorite part of Jubilee. No matter what your passions or interests are, there is something at Jubilee that addresses it! We, as campus staff people, want our students to understand that their faith should inform EVERY area of their lives. Here's what Anthony had to say:

I especially love that Jubilee demonstrates that the Gospel applies to every area of life in the topics of the seminars, panel discussions, and breakout sessions. Every area--from your identity in Christ to HIV/AIDS and environment. Forgive me for being biased but it seems cultivating a Christian-world-and-life view is the best holistic understanding of what it means to be world Christian.

AND, Jubilee is getting buzz in really cool places! Michael Gerhon was a panelist and breakout session leader this year at Jubilee. He is also a columnist for the Washington Post. He mentions the Jubilee Conference in a recent article in the Post. Read the full article here.

I have seen the future of evangelical Christianity, and it is pierced. And sometimes tattooed. And often has one of those annoying, wispy chin beards.
Those who think of evangelical youths as the training cadre of the religious right would have been shocked at Jubilee 2008, a recent conference of 2,000 college students in Pittsburgh sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Outreach. I was struck by the students' aggressive idealism -- there were booths promoting causes from women's rights to the fight against modern slavery to environmental protection. Judging from the questions I was pounded with, the students are generally pro-life -- but also concerned about poverty and deeply opposed to capital punishment and torture. More than a few came up to me between sessions in anguished uncertainty, unable to consider themselves Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative --
homeless in the stark partisanship of American politics.

Awesome!!! And, believe it or not, the CCO folks and the speakers and presenters aren't the only ones who really like the Jubilee Conference -- the students love it, too! Carine, a senior nursing student from the Republic of Congo, said this after attending the conference:

I have been struggling with a lot of things going on in my life that even question the Love of God. Being in Jubilee, and listening to different messages, helped me renew my commitment to God, and know that He is and will always be there in my life if I let him take control of everything.

Amy is a junior education major who is also very interested in environmental stewardship. She doesn’t feel much support from the campus regarding the ways that Christ calls us to be faithful in all areas of life, including environmentalism. She said this about the Jubilee Conference:

Seeing so many people working to make a difference is so encouraging. It always moves me to tears. At Jubilee, I feel like that's a time to actually hardcore SEE what is being done. College students just like me are making a difference.

Our students are catching the vision of what it means to have their lives transformed by the power of Christ, not only in how they do their devotions or how they treat others, but also in how they work and play and study and create. The Kingdom of God is coming here, now!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rebuilding Phoenix 2 - photos!

Here are a few photos of my mission trip to Louisiana. Enjoy!

The front door of the home we worked on.

My assignment for the week: laying tile! Before...

Our finished task!!! Isn't it a lovely room?

Our group, with the contractor we worked with and the woman's house we worked on (Noella is in the middle of the group).

And finally... the infamous RAT DOG!!! Isn't it just the ugliest little thing you've ever seen?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rebuilding Phoenix

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix, Louisiana for a mission trip with my church. The church I work for is an Evangelical Covenant Church -- a small Swedish denomination with Lutheran similarities. (I don't know much about the church background, actually. For more information, you can check out the Wikipedia article or the Covenant Church website.) Anyway, we went with the Covenant mission organization called Covenant World Relief, and yes, you read right, we were in Phoenix, Louisiana.

Phoenix is a TINY town located 25 miles south of New Orleans, right next to the Mississippi River. As you can see from the map (the pink arrow), it's not located in a very 'safe' spot, particularly when hurricanes are near. CWR, along with a few other mission organizations, has committed to rebuilding this tiny town, which two and a half years later still carries evidence of the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused. Because of its location in between the Mississippi and the gulf/marsh, Phoenix is bordered with two 17 foot levys about 500 yards apart, and so when the wind/rain/floodwaters came, the levys essentially created a giant bowl filled with 17-20 feet of water. And because the water had nowhere else to go, it just sat there until they finally broke one of the levys to drain the water. In a community of only 300 people and 160 homes, only 25 houses were able to be salvaged after the hurricane. Slowly, houses are being rebuilt and the community is being restored.

My team of seven was working on a woman named Noella's home, putting in trim boards, laying tile, painting, and wiring light fixtures. (For your information, I am now an expert tile layer -- available for hire!) The community of Phoenix that existed before the hurricane is still very much alive, even though physically it is still very broken. While we were working, there was a continuous stream of family, friends, and neighbors poking their heads in to see how the house was progressing, asking questions, and taking notes on the building details. One of our favorites was a couple named Donald and Annabelle. Their home was one of the few that was able to be salvaged, and they are slowly rebuilding it themselves, while working and still living in a FEMA trailer on the other side of the Mississippi. But they come back to Phoenix as often as they can, to work on their house and catch up on the community. Though they have no connections to Noella, they expressed so much gratitude for us being down there and helping to rebuild Phoenix. They opened their home to us, fed us dinner (mmm, gumbo!), and insisted that from now on we were to consider them friends. Let me tell you, that is the body of Christ in action!

I have so many more stories I could tell you, and even more pictures I could show you. It's amazing to me the amount of destruction and devastation we saw in our travels -- it's been two and a half years since the hurricane! But thankfully, people are still volunteering to come down and work, and little by little, the area is coming back together.

The first week of March, I have another opportunity to do hurricane relief work. I will be traveling to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (the red arrow) with a La Roche College spring break team. I'm sure I'll have more stories and pictures to share with you then, as well. Please pray for our team, as we finalize preparations.

Blessings to you all!
PS. If you want to check out the project we were working with, visit