Three Ways to Disciple Those Dealing With Drama

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Last Wednesday while pulling lesson plans out of a notebook I asked my English student how her week had been. This is a normal way of starting class because it allows her to practice small talk, and since the answer is always good I wasn’t really paying attention while asking it.

Instead of the normal response though she looked down at the table and shaking her head said “so many problems.”

Suddenly the lesson plan didn’t seem all that important.

My student proceeded to explain some problems she was having with a rebellious teenage daughter which included among other things

  • Skipping school with forged notes and parental excuse forms
  • Telling the school her mother’s phone number had changed (it hadn’t) and then getting a friend to send messages using that number excusing her from class
  • Creating a second Facebook account for herself that her parents didn’t know about
  • Failing classes because they were too “boring”

To be honest I was pretty overwhelmed and didn’t really know how to help (single young men with no children don’t have much rebellious teen experience). Yet the pain in this mothers eyes challenged me to do something about the situation.

As Christians in a broken culture we have the opportunity to interact with people struggling with the drama (crisis situations) of life. And though we may not have all the answers, God calls us to enter into that suffering with them for the sake of the Gospel.

There are a number of ways to minister in the midst of drama, but here are the ways God led me to help my English Student.

  1. Offer Sympathy-The one thing a suffering person needs more than anything else is someone who will simply listen
  2. Offer Personal Assistance-It didn’t matter that this rebellious child would respect me even less than her parents, asking “how can I help?” still had tremendous healing powers
  3. Offer Insight-Share lessons that the Lord has taught you along the way that can help them in their time of great need

Of course in this situation it’s also necessary to pray for the student, preferably right there after getting permission.

People around the world are overwhelmed by the drama of their lives and desperately looking for someone to help. Sadly many are too busy (or burdened by our own drama) to stop and help, so there is a greater need than ever for Believers who would bind up the wounds of those who are hurting instead of crossing to the other side of the road.

Earning the Trust of Teens in Four Not So Easy Steps

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One of my favorite ministries in Australia had to be a Religious Education class teaching fifth and sixth graders in a Public School.

There were numerous challenges to this ministry; The greatest challenge however was earning their trust….

I’m grateful to say by our last class (in the picture above) I had earned their trust and respect, but it was a long hard process. As a ministry to others who work with teenagers some of the most important lessons learned along the way are included in this post.

1. Be Honest: The first time we met, one of the boys asked “have you ever swore in your life?” After trying to change the subject he looked me right in the eyes and said in a very serious tone “answer the question”

Instead of trying to lie about it I confessed to using bad language a few times in my life, but confessing it to the Lord right away. His next question was “why did you do that?” and it led to a conversation about the Gospel

2. Be Answering: Teens have hundreds of questions about God and few people who will actually answer them. The Lord used a simple exercise that asked the students to write down questions they had for God to teach me this.

While most students wrote a few lines one girl started writing furiously and kept going after the others were finished. When she handed me her paper I had to take a picture of it to remind me of the need to answer their deep questions.

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3. Be Effective-I don’t care how crazy a group of kids is, there will always a way to motivate them. Shouldn’t be
surprising that giving a candy bar to the best behaved student allowed me to control eight teenagers (it also worked for eighteen kindergartners by the way.) The important thing is bringing a form of structure or discipline into their lives in a way that works, since many of them don’t have it.

wpid-img_03302-2014-02-24-19-40.jpg4. Be Listening: As important as the lesson is, there were moments in class when the Lord allowed me to learn about, or minister to a students deeper need. This meant having more than one conversation with students who were no longer BFF’s and immersing myself in teen girl drama for the sake of the Gospel, it also meant helping a student who was moving to another Country and would never see her friends again understand God was still Loving.

The road to earning trust is long and hard…that’s why so many people haven’t traveled it. However if your willing to put in the hard work God will give you a powerful influence in their lives.

How Volunteering Makes Us Heroes

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yes, stuffing envelopes is considered Ministry too.

About twenty minutes away  is a learning center for children with Autism where I volunteer at the front desk on Wednesdays.

The job consists of answering phones, opening the front door, and greeting visitors, but that doesn’t keep them from celebrating every time I come in and referring to me as their “hero.”

This actually has very little to do with how awesome I am, but is all about my approach to the volunteer ministry.

Now I am aware that not many people have time to give towards volunteering (it’s an exhausting ministry) but I also believe it’s one of the greatest ways we can reach the lost in our community.  If the Lord does allow you to get involved there is one very important thing to remember.

It must be done with excellence

There are many different tips on how to volunteer with excellence, but here are a few of my favorites

1. Be Cheerful-you would be AMAZED how powerful saying “good morning” with a smile on your face can be
2. Be Professional-Take the volunteering position seriously, as if it was a real job
3. Be Awesome-Doing the smallest job in a well organized and detailed manner will have them celebrating when you arrive

Allow me to illustrate these using an experience from last Wednesday with one of the teachers named Lizzie.

9:00-Lizzie asks me to measure and cut thirty strips of velcro (not very exciting)
9:20-After finding the strips cut and stacked in piles of ten, Lizzie spends the next fifteen minutes acting as if I climbed Mt Everest
11:00-Lizzie asks me to cut out pictures, glue them on a piece of paper, cut the pictures out again after being laminated, and stick Velcro on the back
11:15-Another one of the teachers Cindy hands me one more page of pictures that needs to go through the process
11:30-Lizzie comes out and after calling me her hero hands over three more pages of pictures of laminate.

The thing is I wasn’t doing superhuman work (it doesn’t take a genius to laminate and cut), what amazes the teachers is how much is put into a job I’m never going to be paid for.

There are many reasons for us to volunteer locally, but one of the most important is it allows people to see Christ in us.

Even if we are just laminating

Surviving a Non-Christians “Evaluation Stage”

IMG_0386The Lord allowed me to become involved with many ministries in Australia, but only one involved meeting with Buddhist’s, Muslims, Catholics, and individuals who had no interest in God whatsoever.

An interesting thing about Australia is the big cities are filled with immigrants from other Countries so you won’t see many “true blue Aussies” with the authentic Australian accent.  This results in people who do know the English language, but struggle using it in everyday conversation since there are many who speak their own language (they end up speaking it most of the time).  To remedy this some of the local libraries started something called a Conversational English Group were people could simply come and practice their English speaking skills for an hour and a half.

Attending this group as a volunteer wasn’t really all that hard…sharing with everyone I was a “Baptist Minister” did give me cause for concern.

Though it was challenging, my time with the Conversational English Group taught me everyone in the world is searching for people who are real (or have something different about them); and a consistent Christian testimony that earns a persons trust will speak louder than any Gospel Presentation.

During one of our last sessions they threw a big going party in my honor complete with food, gifts, and a cake that said come back soon John in big letters.  The truly special part was before the meal when one of them asked me to pray, I watched as Buddhist’s, Muslims, Catholics, and even those with no interest in God bowed their heads and prayed along with me.

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That kind of influence didn’t happen overnight.  Instead it came from living out the Gospel in front of them for more than a year.  Slowly they moved from an attitude of skepticism to one of acceptance, asking questions about God, and introducing me to their friends as “John the Baptist Minister ”

When you identify yourself as a Christian, that is a good way to make yourself accountable, even to non believers. By saying in your workplace (without being obnoxious), “I am a Christian,” by saying to members of your family or in your neighborhood or among your friends, “I am a follower of Jesus,” you are putting that stake in the ground, and they will be watching you and evaluating you.

And frankly, they will be evaluating God, too. They are will be thinking, So that is how a Christian acts. That is how a Christian treats his wife. That is how a Christian treats her husband. I get it. That is how a Christian raises their child. That is how a Christian does thus and so. . . . They will be watching you. And nothing is worse than getting your behavior corrected by a unbeliever, especially when they are right.  Greg Laurie

Sadly many Christians never get past the “evaluation stage” of relationships with Unbelievers because their beliefs don’t really match up with their actions.  This is why I would like to share with you the most important lesson learned through the Conversational English Classes, and something that will absolutely make or break your evaluation stage.

We were talking in one of the first sessions about the differences between  Cultures when one of the students asked me how America was different from Australia.  After thinking about it for a moment I told them that we were too fat because fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s serve much bigger portions than you would get in Melbourne.

This kind of surprised them since most Americans have the reputation of covering up their faults, and my answer led to a discussion about the weakness of US policies for about an hour.  Those kinds of conversations earned the trust of the other group members since I was showing a commitment to being real or honest, even when the answer hurt a bit.

That honesty eventually led to sharing my struggles with them (what made me angry, frustrated, sad) and telling stories about God’s comfort in those times of need.  With every story or experience I shared they gained more trust or confidence in me, and soon we were all sharing the personal side of our lives with one another.  This kind of impact came however because I was willing to be open about what was going on in my life and use the struggles as an opportunity to share Christ.

To be honest getting through the evaluation relational phase with the group members wasn’t hard at all since it was obvious they were watching my life very closely.  However I’m convicted by the question ‘how many times have I failed to pass the evaluation of a lost person, and never even realized it?”

An Exhausting Mission Field

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A few weeks ago I headed up to my brothers house for the weekend because my niece was going to be a little girl from Australia in the Churches Christmas play (editors note: If that isn’t typecasting I don’t know what is). After getting there on Saturday afternoon I was greeted by my niece who excitedly said, “Guess what Uncle John? The Christmas play was delayed till Wednesday!” There was a really good reason for this since Sunday was filled with freezing rain and nobody should have been on the roads, however my response to the situation wasn’t exactly like hers.

My first thought was “oh no now I have to be here for five days!”

Now I’m aware that makes me sound the worst Uncle in the world so let me explain. Since my niece was little I’ve taken on the role of being “Silly Uncle John” which basically means being comedic relief for her entertainment (actually it entertains the whole family but it’s meant for her). The idea for Silly Uncle John actually started with our Skype conversations once a week while I was in Australia (she didn’t meet me in person till she was almost three) where my hand would become the dreaded tickle monster that almost always seemed to sneak it’s way into the corner of the screen when I was talking to her. Being a Silly Uncle is awfully easy while sitting at home drinking coffee talking to a computer and are able to turn Skype off after talking for a half hour 🙂

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The next phase of being a Silly Uncle was for six-months in 2009 when I came home for my first furlough. It was a bit harder to entertain a two-year old in person but we were still able to do without a serious problem. Then I came back in 2012 and suddenly the Silly Uncle John routine became an exhausting exercise; partly due to the fact that my niece is now six, but her brother (or as I like to call him the bottomless pit) who is almost two was added to the situation. Those of you with kids are well aware of the fact that entertaining one child is hard…entertaining two at the same time is almost impossible (especially when it becomes clear Uncle John is allowed to play with the Princess Castle but little brother is definitely NOT allowed). To be honest the idea of being a Silly Uncle for five days was enough to make me feel weak in the knees, driving back Thursday morning though I could only thank God for the memories created over that time. Sure I was exhausted, but it was worth it.

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Editors Note: One thing this relationship with my niece and nephew has taught me is the challenge of being a mom (seeing the demands they place upon my brothers wife) so please don’t think in any way this article is downplaying what mothers do….trust me you have greatest respect.

People sometimes ask me why I work with kids; especially after days like last Tuesday when I willingly helped at a Christmas Party for eighteen first-graders and kindergarteners. The truth is young children is one of the greatest mission fields in the world…and it isn’t being reached. Working with children is exhausting even if you aren’t being a Silly Uncle, and for most people after investing so much time and energy into your own kids there just isn’t enough left for someone else’s. I completely understand the calling to be strong leaders of your own family, but can see firsthand the great calling there is for Christians who will invest themselves in the lives of children who crave attention and love.

In our Christmas party Tuesday I had to separate two girls at least three times who both liked the same boy and were arguing about it (do I need to remind you they are in the first grade?), put five kids in naughty chairs (one girl twice), threaten two students with going to the school office, remove two students physically who were being a distraction (a gentle hand on the arm), deal with the drama of one girl tried to pull another students pants down, and get four children to stop crying…all in about a half-hour. Is it exhausting? You better believe it! But there are rewards within that ministry as many of those children were able to hear the Gospel clearly explained through the story of Christmas.

The world needs more people who will put their time and energy into this growing mission field. It isn’t for the faint of heart (they can smell fear) but if you are willing to give children the love they crave it will open wonderful doors to share the Gospel of Christ.

The Tuna Quiche Experience Part One

One of the greatest joys during my furlough ministry is sharing experiences from the Mission field with prayer supporters, close friends, and those who are in training to become Missionaries.

That’s why starting this week I will begin sharing some of those experiences in an extended format (three to five parts) on the blog.  It’s my prayer that they can help you understand how God uses all experiences in the Mission field (both good and bad) for His Glory.

Continue reading The Tuna Quiche Experience Part One