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Discipleship Blog

Summer Missions: Katie Rhodes

Wesley Worship

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This May was the third year in a row I have been to Tanzania. The place has a chunk of my heart. While in Tanzania we created an English lesson plan and taught it to the street youth to improve their conversational English skills. This allowed us to get to know each youth. We learned their background, their personalities, and their smiles.

I am not someone who is good with goodbyes; they’re heartbreaking. I easily get attached to people. But I’ve learned both with growing up as a preacher’s kid moving around and with traveling, you have to make the most of every opportunity, leaving your heart on the line every time. If you hold back for fear of goodbyes, it hurts yourself, the people, and God’s work.

Being in Tanzania poses a lot of opportunities for fear and therefore many opportunities to trust and depend on God. My faith was stretched to trust God and leave the comfort zone behind. I felt God push me to put myself out there, speak up, interact with people, and go for it when everything screamed hold back. Who are you helping when you hide? Not even yourself. We invested everything we had into the youth we were teaching. Because of that, we were able to connect on a deeper level with them.  

As Megan said Sunday, it’s harder to incorporate the lessons from a mission trip when you get back to an American way of life. It’s harder when you’re not faced with tangible fears daily, not being shocked by stark poverty daily, and not in that mission trip mindset. Things do not look as clear. But God calls us to treat every day as a “mission trip”. He calls us to die to ourselves and to love others. God want to use us to touch the lives of those around us. So like in Tanzania, I have to learn to leave my comfort zone behind, put my heart out on the line for those around me in my own culture, and trust in God with my fears. 

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Summer Missions: Wil Sanders

Wesley Worship

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I worked with Alabama Rural Ministry this summer helping run their summer missions camps. For seven weeks this summer, we had assorted youth groups coming to either Tuskegee, AL or Livingston, AL to spend a week doing home repair and helping to run the day camp for local, at risk children. I was one of the day camp counselors for the Livingston site. My experience with ARM wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. Honestly in almost every way it was different from what I thought I was signing up for when I put in my application. And while there were definitely struggles we faced from the very first day till the very last, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because of the awesome youth I was able to meet and try to help grow throughout the Summer. Whether it was just talking to them to get to know them better, playing basketball with them in the gym of the day camp, or telling high school seniors how great Auburn University is, they made my summer amazing and I couldn’t have made it without all of them.

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Summer Missions: Crystal Boutwell

Wesley Worship

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I spent my summer on a little island in Savannah, Georgia interning with the youth group of Isle of Hope United Methodist Church. Those two months were both the most mentally and physically exhausting yet spiritually rewarding months of my life. On paper, my job meant planning and executing the big trips of the summer, leading Sunday school and youth group, along with the day-to-day operations of a youth ministry like writing notes to or getting lunch with kids. In reality, my job meant jamming to Disney music, eating Chic Fil A every other day, and getting kicked out of malls.

The youth director that I worked with gave his interns the opportunity to let our voices be heard in all the decisions of youth this summer and I appreciate that because it allowed me to see the background music that makes up youth ministry. This summer shaped me and my vision of the church in so many ways. Spending that much time with teenagers made me fearless in not only words but in faith. The biggest thing I took away from this summer is that although in the adult church we love for things to be clean and presentable—especially our sanctuaries and fellowship halls—but teenagers (and let’s be honest most adults) aren’t clean and presentable—especially those we are called to minister to. If we are to be a church with open doors and hearts, we can’t be afraid to get messy and allow messy people into our lives and buildings.

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Summer Missions: Grant Keith

Wesley Worship

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This past summer I had the opportunity to go to Neuenburg, Germany to work alongside the Neuenburg International Church and the Neuenburg Atomics. This summer offered many great experiences along with challenges. Mission work in Germany is unlike many other countries. They aren’t in material need, but their spiritual need is great.

                  The hardest part of this summer was not seeing tangible results. Germany doesn’t offer the results like working in a third world country does. You hope that by the way you live your life and the way you reflect Christ makes the guys you are around see a difference and question what it is that gives you that difference. There aren’t wells needing to be built to give clean water. There aren’t house that need to be built to give shelter. There are churches that need bodies, and bodies that need church. Seeds were planted this summer and hopefully continue to grow long after the time I spent there thanks to the few Christians that are there to continue that growth in those guys lives. 

                  A few of the highest moments of this summer was winning the league that the Atomics were a part of. The team had their best season in the history of the club, winning 23 games and only losing 1. A long with the winning the title, we were also just an hour away from the Swiss Alps. This offered the opportunity to go and climb in these mountains and experience just the awe of creation. Standing high above the ground, facing a fear of heights, and just being in complete speechlessness is a feeling I won’t soon forget.

                  This experience offered a chance to be in a culture completely different from the deep South. The growth and development that I was able to have was amazing.  It offered the chance to grow into my faith and establish what I truly believed. Not being surrounded by believers is something that will push you and motivate you to become stronger in your faith and I’m thankful for every minute spent in Neuenburg this summer.

                  In Christ,

             Grant Keith 

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Summer Missions: Jack Carr

Wesley Worship

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I spent this past summer serving on the Summer Leadership Team at Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Leesburg, Florida, near Orlando. It's an overnight camp where kids between 4th and 12th grade come for a week to put down their cell phones and all the distractions in their life and grow closer to Christ, and have a lot of fun doing it. The campers are able to do all sorts of activities, such as ultimate frisbee, canoeing, tubing, rock climbing, zip lining, and more, in addition to worship and small groups. Throughout the summer I also led a workshop for the middle school age level that discussed academics and the ways in which students can keep their faith centered in the midst of school and all the stress that comes with it. By far the best part of the whole experience was the interactions I had with campers as I got to know them throughout each week. Some campers have been coming for years, and were super excited from day one to come back to a place where they saw God so clearly. For others, this year was their first time and they didn't know what to expect and may have been nervous or missing home. I started to enjoy watching the first year campers as they grew more comfortable around others and came out of their shell as the week went on. I had been a counselor last year as well so it was really great being able to check in with the campers I had met last year and see how they've been. It's been such a privilege to be able to be a part of so many campers' walks with Christ and live life with them.

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Summer Missions: Anne Louise Pass

Wesley Worship

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This summer, I fulfilled a six year long dream of going to Rwanda on a mission trip. My dad has been there 4 times, I have heard about countless trips there, and I have a sponsor sister living in Kigali who I have gotten to know through facebook for the last five years. On this specific trip, we worked with a sponsorship ministry called Imana Kids which has helped create lives for about 80 kids who had been victimized in an unregistered orphanage until about four years ago. It was one of the coolest mission experiences I've been a part of because my trip leaders were the couple that started the ministry and shut down the orphanage to begin with. They were basically parents to these kids and were invested in them wholeheartedly, not just in providing for their physical needs but in helping them go to college and get jobs. The most amazing part of the trip was the second day because it was such a testament to the love they have for their kids (and vise versa) and the redemption that has occured in these kids' lives. We got to attend the wedding of the oldest of their boy. All the kids came, and it was one of the most celebratory and worshipful events I have experienced. I felt so honored to be a part of it, and it taught me a lot about the importance of worshiping and praising God.

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Summer Missions: Sarah Grace Kirkendall

Wesley Worship

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This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to live and serve at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. Basically the way ACMNP works is that you apply through them for your top three choices of parks (sometimes you get your top choice, sometimes you don’t even get one of your choices), then, once accepted, you apply for one of the concessionaires.

I was on a team of ten where I helped lead worship services on Sundays for visitors in some of the greatest scenery in the United States. Growing together with my teammates, especially on off days where we got to explore the park together and be in nature was definitely one of the best parts of summer. My favorite moment of the summer was spent with three of my teammates hiking in the southeast corner of the park, seeing a wolf, overlooking the Yellowstone Caldera, and eating way too much ice cream. Obviously constantly being around the same 30 or so people everyday has some challenges and conflicts arise. But, overall, the people I spent the summer with were overwhelmingly supportive and loving and kind.

I have never been one for public speaking, but this summer I was required to give two of the messages. I spent the entire week before my first Sunday stressing out, but as soon as I stood in front of the twenty or so people gathered on the Old Faithful Inn Mezzanine, I felt a rush of calm. I’m still not set in stone on where my life is headed career wise, but that moment of calm where I anticipated stress made me feel as though this was a step in the right direction.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing with your summer and have questions, let me know!

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Summer Missions: Paige Pinniger

Wesley Worship

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Camp is an incredibly unique atmosphere and Pine Cove is a place that I will forever hold a special place in my heart because of the work the Lord did this summer in me and in my campers. From hopping off a plane in Texas into a car full of strangers to meeting a new group of kids each week, the Lord proclaimed his faithfulness and taught me to rely fully on Him.

My favorite day of camp was the last day. After morning bible study, Abigail and Adilyn asked if I could tell them more about Jesus and how to accept Him. We sat outside of our next activity class and I shared the Gospel with them and talked to them about my best friend and what it meant to be adopted into Christ’s family. With the biggest smiles on their faces, Abigail and Adilyn accepted Jesus and began their journey in Christ’s family. While this moment was so special, the rest of the day reminded me of God’s transformative power. These girls were best friends, but they were both shy, reserved, and spoke to only to one another or myself; however, after accepting Christ, I saw their lives transformed. They began befriending other campers in our cabin, volunteering to pray, and bursting with joy over their newfound savior. I excitedly introduced all the other counselors and staffers at camp to my newest sisters in Christ because I witnessed the Lord change their life and experienced again the joy of the Lord. I pray daily that the Lord would remind me over and over of His transformative power and remind me to greet others with the joy of the Lord welcoming others into His family constantly.

Camp is incredible, and the Lord works where we allow Him to. I witnessed the work of the Lord in my own life, in the lives of my campers, in the life of my family, and in the life of the new community of freshmen here in Auburn through the Oaks Retreat. The Lord is moving and active and He is a God of transformation, we just need to be willing to say “yes” and follow Him in obedience.  We don’t need camp or retreats, we simply need to allow the Lord to transform our hearts daily and we will watch Him work in and through our lives. 

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Auburn Wesley + God's Mission

Auburn Wesley

Last night as we gathered for worship we heard from some in our community as they shared how their summers (and lives) were impacted by their being sent in mission over the summer.  We celebrate the vital witness of people who, over the years, have heard God's call, had their plans radically changed, and were never quite the same through participating in God's mission through the Auburn Wesley Foundation.  

That vital witness continues!   

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Katie Rhodes and friends in Tanzania 

We heard from Rachel and Bo about youth caravan.  We heard from Eric and Megan from the Tanzania mission trip... and Megan spend 6 more weeks there in addition to the three weeks the team spent.  

But we realize it isn't just these people who have stories of being drawn into God's mission in the world.  And are trying to figure out what to do now in light of what they've experienced of God and others.  We also realize the opportunities that we offer through Wesley aren't the only opportunities.  

So for the next several days we'll be sharing a series of posts from those who also spent at least part of their summer in mission and ministry.  May their witness and journey and faith and questions call forth and invite the same in you!  

Grace + Peace,

Tony Jeck | Associate Director, Auburn Wesley Foundation   

How do we listen to God?

Anna Grace Glaize

Student Question

How do I listen to God?

Tony’s Response

(Part 1)

For me to answer this question, I feel like it's essential for us to ground our understanding of prayer as "practice."  When prayer is a practice, it helps us to be honest about the very real challenges of hearing from God. Very few of us are just naturals... in fact, most of us feel like we're beginners at best with prayer. When we think of prayer as a practice, it helps us to remember that it isn't so much a switch we flip, but a seed that we sow. Over time, our ability to listen deeply to God may be cultivated.

We are taught, both in scripture and in the lives of disciples through the ages, that God's voice is best heard in silence. Think of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:9-14. Some dramatic, earth-shaking stuff happens. Yet the story tells us, repeatedly, the Lord was not to be heard or found in that.  Instead, God's voice comes to Elijah as a gentle whisper—one that shakes him to his core.  And Mother Teresa taught us that if we don't create space for silence in our lives, it is increasingly unlikely that we will be able to hear God's voice of guidance and direction. If you're like me, silence is tough. Even when we do try to enter into quiet space, we find our minds spinning with noise and busy thoughts.  (We'll talk about this in the next post!)  

 

Before we talk more about silence and prayer, let's talk about what we  mean by "hearing God's voice."  Because that can seem like a daunting thing.  Many, if not most, have not heard God address us audibly.  But we know from Scripture and the testimony of fellow Christians that some have heard God's voice in this way—literally out loud, or at least so clearly that it seems audible. It's hard to say why this happens for some and not for others. 

 

But this is NOT the only way to understand "hearing God's voice."  Most often, when talk about hearing God's voice we are referring to the way that our hearts or minds are stirred; we suddenly see things differently or feel called to respond in new ways to the people or circumstances around us. This is usually accompanied by an overwhelming sense that this shift came from outside of ourselves.  Many times, you'll have to describe it as something that happened TO you.  Often times it will function as a turning point for a given situation or relationship, though it may be quite challenging to articulate the experience or explain what you now know.  But one thing's for sure, it leads you down a new path that is at once exciting and yet uncertain and unexplored. 

 

Can you think of any times when you have experienced that kind of move of God?  How do you try to put it into words?  

 

Edited by Anna Grace Glaize

Send your questions to questions@auwesley.org

WHAT THE HECK DOES PRAYER EVEN DO???

Anna Grace Glaize

Student Question

WHAT THE HECK DOES PRAYER EVEN DO??? What effect does prayer have? Does prayer change God's mind or actions? Would He not do what's best if we weren't asking Him? What is the point? 

Tony’s response

This is the "utility" question - What is prayer's usefulness? What does prayer do?  It’s a really important question, though I want to qualify how we might ask it.  This sort of “utility” question seems to be in response to a deep intuition many people have about prayer; there is something more to praying than rattling off a wish list of what we want or need, which God may or may not grant us.   And when utility, usefulness, and personal gain are the primary things we are (implicitly or otherwise) told prayer is about - then I think we must ask the question, just like this... what is prayer?!?!?

There are certainly cases in Scripture, in the long history of the church, and in many personal testimonies that document God’s responsiveness to prayer. However, it seems much more the norm that this is not the primary thing.

So what is the purpose of prayer? Union with God.  Prayer is about connection to God. There are a few things I suspect prayer will accomplish in the life of individuals who faithfully practice it.  Primarily, prayer broadens hearts and minds; it introduces us to new ways of seeing, thinking, speaking, and acting toward God and others.  If prayer is a way of uniting us more deeply to the life, heart, and mind of God in Jesus, then this seems the reasonable outcome. Through prayer, my finite perspective stretches and expands; my limited capacity finds itself swallowed up in the infinite capacity of the Divine. Prayer accomplishes a change in me. But this isn't just for the sake of some kind of inner/spiritual deepening. At its best, it absolutely has "practical" implications.  This connection with God, over time, may shape and form us to know how to live and be and work in the world in a way that is in step with the movement of God.  This is what we see in Jesus and what makes him SO incredibly compelling in the gospels. He lives his life in deep union with God.  

I think the Scripture's idea of holiness or sanctification is primarily concerned with THIS VERY FORMATION in us!  That is, it is more concerned with where your life flows from. Are you united with the Lord, the giver of life? Or are you trying to get life out of things which cannot give it? I believe this is why John Wesley liked best "to be formed in the image and likeness of Christ" or "to have the mind of Christ” as definitions/images for holiness and sanctification. These scriptural images point back to Christ’s union with God

I think the practice of prayer (while certainly multi-faceted and capable of DOING a great many things) has as its primary goal the pursuit of a deeper connection to God, who created us in love and who sent Jesus to embody a life lived in union.

Edited by Anna Grace Glaize

Send your questions to questions@auwesley.org