Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

An Epistle to the Youth

The following is a letter sent from Evan to Matt Parker -- V-Team's mentor and former Youth Pastor. It is a letter that resembles a disciple's epistle to a church. And it was read out-loud yesterday, at the Woodland Park Community Church youth group meeting, back in Colorado. Every student got a paper copy. (Andrew's brother, Ty, folded the 5 page letter to keep and carry around in his Bible). Evan had Andrew and Christian read this letter and approve its contents. The wording is intentionally crafted to safely travel through any possible international email screening.
Below I have the attached email to the youth group ... this is designed for whatever the Master has planned obviously, but really just to bring about another way for people to wake up and hear, from their peer, that there are more challenging battles ahead, and what I have encountered to make it through them. My desire is to really serve the youth group with an encouragement. May our Father take this feeble offering and multiply it- I just want so badly for the youth to be rooted and united and in the body, and not to fall away like some I have seen with my own eyes.

To the WPCC Youth Group
First and foremost: I am so happy to write this to you in love as your brother!
I want to thank you so much for all you have been doing this past 2008 year and now beginning 2009 year. I am so excited to be with you and hear all what the Master is doing and how this year has been. I know it has been successful. Some things were on my heart recently that i want to share with you. Thank you so much for settling down for a sec to listen.

So what i have encountered since i have been gone (as well as Andrew and Christian) is that life will change when you leave home. If you are planning on going to school, do service and work, etc- anything, please hear me out. Two kids leave home from high school, stoked for college or whatever the plan is. They both talk the same, speak to the Almighty the same, have the same friends, the same hobbies, and same "spiritual fervor." BUT: one comes back hot and one comes back cold.

High school has a lot of luke-warm believers. You can get through with out spending time with Him. You can get through. Maybe a party here or so, maybe a Sunday believer. In addition to being luke warm. We pick up all these habits we receive from the fellowship we go to and things we feel we have to do or even do subconsciously growing up in our culture. All these things that are not real in our hearts will be shed off. You will encounter temptations and circumstances that will make you come face to face with who you really are and what you are really about. When you don't have all these comforts of home and friends; being a follower of our Creator suddenly becomes unglamorous (because it is pretty glamorous in WP) you will really come face to face with the reality. If you walk with Him because it is the thing to do, because you like how it looks, because you want to be in a certain crowd, etc, then you may fall. Both the people that leave home can say the same stuff, and even appear to produce the same fruit SOMETIMES. Your friend next to you may do all the same things, but fall away once going into the world. But our Maker came to change hearts- we can endure all these coming challenges because of our authentic relationship with Him. And if you don't have a changed heart- if He is not working in your heart daily... I am going to be straight up as your brother- trouble is coming. Because you can't "get by." You have to have Him in your heart, living for Him. It can't be this half way thing. To give you a cheesy and cliche example: if you are on the fence, when the college/real world wind blows, you will fall off. Because walking with our Master isn't always so glamorous or comfortable all over the world and in college. Winds are going to come, and so are the wolves. As your brother in youth group, i wanted to bring up this issue and encourage you to listen and act on what He says to you. The enemy not only wants to knock you off the fence- BUT KEEP YOU ON IT (if you get me).

You see- it is funny how our Creator has made it that NOBODY can ever know what your heart is like except Him. This proves this is really about a personal relationship with the Almighty. And ahead i share a lot about love. This isn't me telling you to love well (although we should)- I am trying to put into perspective the difference between a pharisee and a "sinner." That one has a real relationship and in love, and one is legalistic. And how the sinner is authentic with the Father, the sinner is AUTHENTIC - and we need to come to His throne in the same way. And about how this love proves a changed heart, because the fruit produced comes from your heart. Hang in there with me....
In Matthew 9:13 Our Creator says, "I want you to show mercy not offer sacrifices..." And the Pharisee's were the ones who always appeared to have it right and looked good and glamorous and had it together. Their fruit was there. They went to church and followed the rules. They had scripture memorized. Their devotion and zeal for the Father is not bad, but what was is their hearts. "You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things..." (23:23). In Matthew, His Son goes on to say how they are like white-washed tombs, "white on the outside and filthy on the inside..." So when you leave and you are on your own- you will come face to face with our Father.
Are you clean on the outside but filthy on the inside?
Do you go to youth group, serve, go to church in the wrong heart?
Or has your heart been changed by His love, and you are walking as a broken person in that love?
What this pharisee comparison shows us is that our actions are not enough. We can't get by in life just tithing and going to our fellowship and doin' it because it is what our friends do. 1 Cor. 13 talks about how everything is like a noisy gong without love. What kind of love is this? We're talking about a kind of relationship with the Almighty that changed this theology about a man dying on a cross in your head to your heart. We can know and do all the right stuff, but until it is in our heart, until we are changed inside which flows out- it is in vain. Common thought and impulses in us say that we need to do works to earn our points. To earn His favor. We are such screw ups that we could never do enough stuff to earn His favor. But He is saying something amazing- that our favor is undeserved. The contrary to these impulsive feelings produce the kind of love and faith that offers not only changed our fruit, but our inside- our heart. In John 15:1-17 Our Master is explaining that He is the vine, we are the branches. ALL OF OUR FRUIT COMES FROM HIM. He says for us to remain on that vine we have to remain in that love. And to remain in that love we have to be changed. If we don't remain in his love (on His vine) we won't have nutrients and we will wither and die. Just as a leaf on a vine- if it is severed and steps out of that humbling love, it will FALL AWAY. To remain in that love we have to be like the woman in Luke ch. 7:36-48. It tells a story of a woman on the ground kissing and washing the Almighty's feet- while He is having dinner with Simon the Pharisee. He says, "I tell you, her sins- and they are many- have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love..." This kind of love paints the picture of a change of heart vs. a change of actions. The heart is first. Of course the Pharisee does all the right things, but our Maker is telling the Pharisee that the broken woman understands this love- and THE PHARISEE DOESN'T. Later on in Luke (Ch. 18:9-14) it again shows us a sinner vs. pharisee. And the tax collector's prayer was, " merciful to me for i am a sinner." While the Pharisee's prayer was this long, self- centered prayer about all he could do. And the parable ends with, "This sinner, not the pharisee went home justified..."
Through all of this we see we are to be emptied, totally broken, offering up all we have- and receiving this grace and love. Receiving this mercy that we don't deserve. Getting in touch with our sin and really coming to grips with the fact that we need the grace only He offers. Allowing that to change us. Realizing our need for that love, letting it fill us up, letting it change the way we think and our hearts- then pouring that out on others. This is the significance of a changed heart. And so we must be centered, wrapped up in this love and grace, letting this relationship change what's inside. 1 John 3:16 talks about how our Creator gave up His life for us, so we know what real love is. "So we ought to give up our lives for our brother's and sisters." Then later in verse 12 of ch. 4 it says that if we love each other, "the Almighty lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us." This shows us that real love was our King coming down off His thrown, becoming emptied, lived as a slave and died a painful death as a mere human just so we could be in a relationship with Him.
We cannot understand that kind of love, dude. And it says the love is brought to expression in us when we love each other. That is because we didn't deserve this love, and so when we serve each other and love each other even in the worst of times, when we serve other sinners we begin to understand the kind of love that our Master has for us as sinners. This love is not just in the head. This change is not just in the brain. We don't just read theology and try to become a better or more advanced person. 1 Cor. 13 says that we are noisy without love. And this love can only happen when it flows out of an empty- changed heart. Not trying really hard to love with our human effort. The emphasis is that this love comes from being grounded and in relationship with the Almighty. That when things come our way and we don't have the general youth going the right direction, we can work through these things and grow in our walk with the Father.
Lastly, the book of Psalms discusses this so much. "You do not want a sacrifice, or i would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart." This is in psalm 51 and this is the Psalm, David wrote after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. You know the drill how they used to have to offer sacrifices for sin- but David realized, Just like our Creator wanted the Pharisee's to- that He wants our hearts. A simple sacrifice would be easy. Because David would make his sacrifice, then go on his way all righteous. And we can do that today. Simply do all the right things (however that looks) then carry on our way. But there is something different here. He is saying, "I want your heart." He wants David's devotion. He wants David to repent, just like the woman in Luke ch. 7. To come crawling realizing his or her need, then letting His love in the heart. And to give it to Him. the Pharisee and even most of us, simply try to do all the right things. But the Father is asking first that we give Him our heart. He wants a broken and repentant heart. A heart that is not haughty, but is on the ground washing feet, that is changed because in the worst this heart receives grace and is transformed by it. This is not an objective thing, it is not a task- but about relationship. So there must be this authenticity with the Maker.

As i fly over to India right now- i see what some messenger's of the Good News feel. It is not this fashionable, stylish thing all the time. And getting burnt out or lost is a reality. Life was somewhat easy in high school, just monotone. If things get hard, or problems come or anything like that- we can easily stuff those holes with other stuff. Those holes in our hearts get filled with ANYTHING other than the Almighty and His love. And I am finding the importance of the authentic relationship with Him. In addition to this authentic relationship with Him, the Word is all we have. I went through a process during Brasil, where I was stripped. All i thought was true and what i thought i believed was challenged. All that was surface was stripped from me. I was alone, and as I laid in bed at night, i asked the questions, "what is this really about? why do i really walk with the Master? is He really alive? does He really want a relationship with me if He is alive?" And guess what: the Word is all we have. During spiritual warfare and common daily tasks, the only way to find the truth is in the Word. It got to the point where I didn't have a mentor or a large group of peers going the same direction i wanted to go. IT WAS UP TO ME. IF I WANTED IT, IF I WERE TO SURVIVE, WHEN I CAME FACE TO FACE WITH THIS I HAD TO MAKE MY OWN DECISION AND CHASE AFTER IT.
What guided me through this grueling and exciting process was the Word. Along with who you are and what is in your heart being brought into focus- so will what you really believe. Psalm 119 talks about the significance of His Word, Heb. 4:12, 1 Thes. 2:13, Gal.6:5, 2 Tim. 3:16 all talk about how the Word is alive, powerful and true. That it is alive and will truly become your guide as you begin to need it- not just something we look at every now and again. We need to have our roots in the Word, not what is common belief. Not just what the fellowship of believers says. You need to know and study yourself. "They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat, or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit." -Jeremiah 17:8. We become this tree when we have roots that reach deep into the Word, and everything we have, all of our fruit that is produced comes from where our roots are planted. And if we are centered on God's character and Word, then we will not tumble when the winds of the world come. Matthew 7:20 talks about a tree and it's fruit. Hosea 14:8 says, "...And all your fruit comes from me." Our fruit comes from what is really in our hearts. It comes down to who you really are and what you truly believe soon enough- we And from this real relationship with Him, we want to know what He says, watch it come alive in our lives, and learn more about Him and who He has made us as His children.

And so you will encounter things that will make you lay down at night and ask, "Why do I walk with the Almighty? Do I REALLY believe in this? What do i believe? What is this whole life and school thing about?" You will come face to face with these questions. We need to be prepared as far as being in the Word, but from a real, authentic relationship with the King. I am not saying that if you are imperfect you will fall away from Him when you leave. What i am saying is that you are going to come face to face with what really makes you tick. Because when comfort leaves, when all these pleasant and luxurious things are not in your life- when you have a job, responsibility, loads of homework that is actually hard, YOU MUST HAVE A REAL REASON TO ACTUALLY DO THE THINGS LIKE SMALL GROUPS, FELLOWSHIP, ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS, EARLY MORNING STUDY, ETC. The whole "Sunday Believer" thing doesn't last. All the conditions of life will come barging in they will sand away shallow reasons.
It is going to come down to what is in your heart. This is amazing about the heart. When everything goes away, what do you live for? When you wake up in the morning, what is your motive for pressing on in the day? When you go to class you don't feel like going to, why do you go? The Master wants us to make that decision, and wants us to be real with ourselves and Him. "...Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect anything... " James 1:6,7. It is because their loyalty is divided between the Father and the world.
I love you guys and i hope and pray that all of this running out crazy from my brain and heart has helped you. This is to every single person -- no matter the grade level. Because We all need to get serious -- it is true. This is not a list of things to do, or telling you that you are doomed. I am just bringing up this issue ahead of time, so we can all be prepared for these challenges that are ahead.
So, my encouragement and challenge to you is to make that decision. From that heart and encounter with our Creator, walk with your friends. Have consistent study and accountability. You need a partner and you need to be in the Body. "As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17. You need to get things out in to the light and open your hearts with each other. We need to tell our close friends the hard things in love when they need it. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to get built up for the Kingdom. We need to get spiritually buff and real before leaving so we will actually make an impact on this world and not fall away like the rest.
WE REMEMBER, WHAT THIS WHOLE THING IS ABOUT, we get ready and become the people He wants us to be- because of this love. We will be nothing and will gain nothing if we don't have this heart and life- changing love.
"So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong." Hebrews 12:12-13
Making sacrifices is easy- giving your heart to our Creator and letting Him change it isn't easy. If we don't really have our Creator and his saving, changing love in us -- what reason do we have to pursue him when everyone else around us isn't doing the same?

With much love, passion and fire,
Evan Stookey
ENCOURAGING VERSES (I couldn't write them out, sorry.)
Look Up:
Hebrews 10:19
Hebrews 10:24
2 Thessalonians 3:3
James 4:8

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Banners of Hope

"So we don't look at the troubles we can see now rather,
we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see
will last forever."
2 Cor. 4:18

We brought 8 long pieces of wood, and 8 shorter pieces of bamboo along with 4 big banners on the metal frame. The banners were about the hope of our Creator. We spent Friday the 16th driving around the country-side hanging up the banners for the conference coming up. We would drive out to remote parts into the middle of a town and dig two holes- put together the frame of the billboard with the two long poles, and the two shorter bamboo sticks horizontal to create a big frame for the banner to go on- then set it up. We traveled from place to place, and by the second banner, we we're loosened up and were laughing with the crew. I think the only people i saw laugh the whole day were the guys on our crew. And considering how dark and hopeless the land felt, i can see why.

Hanging up these banners was an invitation to all to come to this huge tent meeting to hear about hope for every day and eternity. It was our Creator's invitation. Probably because there were three white guys working, but people came from all over to see what we were doing. And even if that is their reason, i am okay with it, because they get to hear and see what we're about.

As we drove in this big van with a group of 6 or so IREF guys, listening to Indian music about the Almighty, it became apparent to me; we were making a statement. In a place where it is hot or cold, it was making a statement to put up these banners and play this music. It meant something to them, because the message we live wasn't twisted or tainted or jaded in anyway. Of course it may be upsetting that the poor and needy are lifted up and cared for in the caste system, but it is powerful.

As we pulled over on the side of the road, the three of us were confused as normal. As Christian put it, "there is something always going on that we aren't aware of -- something that we're missing." They motioned that they were getting something to drink. They crossed the road to a well, and met a group of people drawing water from it. We couldn't help but think of when the Son meets the Samaritan woman at the well. The people that were already there were getting water needed for their survival. They have to go back everyday, but it never really quenches their thirst. In contrast, the IREF guys went to get water, but they had living water. And we have this living water to offer everyone, whether we are at the well or not.

We travel on and this battle, not of flesh and blood but of the rulers and authorities of the unseen world becomes more and more real. The beautiful message and truth about how much our Maker actually loves us, and isn't transcendent but real, alive and here ready for a relationship with us. That this message and basis is a relationship of love, like a marriage. These other practices may require strong discipline, have structure that comforts people, and idols we can see with our eyes. But, just riding in this van putting up these signs was a mark of freedom. It felt like there was light coming out! It was this open ticket, asking people to just come and be. To listen. Hope. To see if there really is a relationship we can have with Him -- that we can encounter Him. And sure it seems pretty outlandish, but we could be right...

"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now' rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."

(2 Cor. 4:16-18)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Off the Train, Into the Crowd

Fundanalu !
(thank you)
Our first experience in India entailed meeting a team from a seminary working with IREF. They had just finished their stay and we met up with them at the YWCA we stayed at as they we leaving and we were going. We hopped right into relationship with them! It was so amazing to see how our Maker planted them right in front of us to learn and see Him in them starting off this time in India. As we had dinner with this group of 8 or so, we broke into smaller discussions. The Almighty drove all this in directions He wanted. We don't know the significance of this encounter with the team, but we sure are happy we met them. We have decided that we love to meet other missionaries and learn from them. Our few hour hang out time ended with a guy named tony lifting us up to the Almighty for our time in India. This guy also has possible hook-ups for Andrew in Belmont, and me (evan) with bible college. He also asked Him when my luggage would show up.
So we got in a tight van, went to the train station and prepared for a 4 hour long train ride to Repalle from Chennai (formerly Madras). As we entered the train i cannot even find the words to describe this. If I had the camera at the specific moment i would have followed on what Steve Leigh said prior to departure, "If you want to remember something or want to describe something to someone- TAKE A PICTURE!" We entered into a wobbling train half-filled with sleeping Indians, trying to find sleeper bunks. This was one time i was glad i didn't have a back pack. We crammed in tight in separate bunks about the size of coffins throughout this one train car. Shortly after getting comfortable and some asleep- an employee asked me for my ticket. Discombobulated and exhausted, I answered with, "check another bunk with a man who has my ticket." There were probably 50 people or so in this train car, and i had no idea where they were sleeping because we were spread apart. So the man named Michael who had picked us up and was taking care of our transportation apparently handled it all. Because he walked away after my response.
We got to this place here, IREF. It is a beautiful complex. To see what has been done is amazing. We we're greeted with breakfast and a warm welcome by an american professor from the seminary team we met earlier named Greg Carlson. He was staying later to finish the youth conference. We sat down with Dee and Emmanuel Rebba and it was so great just to be with these wise people.
We hopped right into it!!! We were escorted to the youth conference across the street IREF was holding similar to Dare 2 Share. We had no idea what we were in for. We entered this huge tent holding 5,000 children. As we were the last ones in- all 10,000 eyes stared at us as we walked to the front. We had the pleasure and opportunity to share our trip testimony, play music and I got to give my own testimony. We listened to the beautiful Indian worship music that is indescribable. With the sitar and unique drums and synthesizers we had that impacting moment of, "we are definitely in India." We finished out listening to testimonies of some children (ages 7-23ish) about what had happened with them in their walk with the Father during the conference.
The second day (which was the last day of the conference) was very unique. After ending we served water for the kids eating, then commenced in a raving mad game of destructo-ball. We ran around with a violent group of a few hundred boys kicking, punching, heading and spiking this soccer ball. Interesting though- the children (most of them) weren't very interested in the game or anything but relationship. They would run up repeatedly asking "what's your name? how are you?" but it never was hackneyed. They would just crowd around you (20-40 of them) holding your arms and hands asking these questions and other things in Telegu. But this hour long event held a few foot-races, tag, hand stands, volley ball (red-rover style) basket ball. Real quick, (and i don't know how i am going to do a good job explaining this) but as we were playing basketball i ran up to one of the older ones who was very aggressive in his style of playing. I ran up shuffling my feet waving my arms- very uncoordinated and loony. His reaction was kinda one of those "you had to have been there kinda things." He hunched over and tried to nearly go through my legs. Enough said.
We are looking forward to the upcoming tent meetings where 15,000 people come and hear about the Almighty. We are also excited about the future interaction of deeper relationship with the guys. India is hot or cold. It is an oppressed place- and few have found the hope that our Creator has given us as a gift. We are looking forward to learning from and serving our brothers and sister and loving the cold as best we can in this month.

Welcomed to India

This welcome banner was hung over the streets for V-Team's arrival.

Out of Africa

One last experience. Holy Tolito!!!! One last experience i got to have was with Jacob and Philip when we went to do an AIDS outreach. This one last time of ministry together was very good. It was upbeat and blissful. On this last outreach that lasted 24 hours I got to know Philip and Jacob more as we endured the windy, bumpy and dangerous roads- trying to concentrate on talking and not the instability of the vehicle. The Almighty does something amazing when we're just together. You know- we just hang out. We will be waiting outside of a store for the other leaders to come retrieve us, and we begin joking with Philip. Then we all laugh and talk and people wonder what gives us joy. People want to know why muzugu's can kick back on the ground with the African's and laugh. But the next day was departure day. So as we kept it in mind we spent the night eating "samosa's" which is a really great African dish. It is basically fried bread with minced beef inside. We spent that last night staying up and telling stories. The good-bye was tough yesterday but wholesome. We know that It was His plan for us three to leave for India on Sunday.

January 11th, 2009 at 4:20 p.m. As we left we definitely felt that deep sadness. Our longing to continue being together. When you have those people in your life that just make you laugh and you laugh with them, you don't ever want to leave them! The way Philip lived his life - his fire and living in the moment attitude was something we have taken from him. A real quick story that impacted my life about Philip was one night we went to Philip's house. Out of no where he invited us over to his house to meet his family. There we were treated like his real family. We sat down as he served us an Indian ice cream with frosted flakes over it. We watched the second half of Johnny English enduring the scratches and skips. Philip was so content to be able to serve us in this way- to bring us into his home and love us. I loved this about Philip. Countless times Philip did things like this to serve us and try to make us feel comfortable. We became great friends with our room mates. We became good friends with Hanifa and Betty our hostesses. But we knew that fateful day had to come when we would fly to India. After a good bye and a long sit in the Entebbe air port, we realized we really were "pamoja-pamoja." This means "one" or "unity." This was our thing since it was us four and jacob now. We we're all pamoja-pamoja working for our Father, helping each other to become those people He wanted us to be. "As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17. This was a great time of accountability; and opening up our lives and hearts and problems and struggles and what we felt He was doing around us. Real close relationships were being built. But time came. At 4:20 p.m. we departed Entebbe, Uganda for Dubai (our connecting flight to Chennai, India). We met a guy from Boulder in that air port which was bizzarre.

As we checked our luggage Christian remembered one of our room mates saying, "Ya'll haven't lost a bag yet? man ya'll are lucky!" And as i kissed my bag goodbye i started thinking if this one would be it. What would by my reaction if all of my backpack and goods in it were gone? And i realized how possible that was. I prayed the prayer, "If it is your will God... then may it be..." Keep that in mind. We take a few long flights- a first pit-stop in Ethiopia, then our connecting flight in Dubai. We arrived sometime (what they called morning-yes the a.m. but in the middle of the night).

Both flights were amazing, because the seats had tvs in them! And they had multi-player games so Andrew and I played battleship, pong, checkers, chess and WARZONE! A WHOLE LOT! I even called Andrew and Christian from my seat right next to them from the phone in the seat in front of me. One of my favorite games is to push the steward button when Andrew or Christian are not looking. We got into India this morning exhausted. We pulled the all-nighter, because there was NO sleeping on these flights due to multiple infants that were not so happy to be traveling at that hour. So we go through customs as usual and come to the luggage carousel. All four pieces of luggage show up (Christian and Andrews back packs and guitars = 4/5) And right as the belt stopped and all the luggage was present -- except my back pack. I began to laugh because i called to mind those thoughts of surrender of my luggage. So after filling out forms and such (the lost luggage is expected to arrive at our residence here in India within a week or so but i don't know how that will work just because of the communication factor) in a whirlwind we leave the airport to the next gauntlet. We travel through the tunnel of staring faces and shouts of "Taxi!" And our thoughts are- "Alright! here we go!" Having no idea who is picking us up but assured someone is going to be there with a sign. After meeting Michael from IREF we hop on a taxi and travel to a YWCA for a bit. We are going to get some lunch then catch a train to Repalle. Who knows what this adventure is going to hold? We are thrilled to see whatever the One who sent us has! And whether or not i will see my "house" again? I DON'T KNOW- BUT ITS SUCH AN ADVENTURE AND WE KNOW WE ARE WALKING RIGHT IN OUR FATHER'S PATH FOR US. HOW CAN WE FAIL? So we move forward into the cafeteria to eat our first real meal, then Repalle.

So yes, we are safe, alive, tired, well- and 4/5 luggage is alive and well too. This experience was great for us. Traveling went well- we were given good health and strength. The strength was provided for every moment.

Thank you for support. And take comfort in the fact that our Father has His hand over us, and we are resting right in this midst of His love like little blind and helpless sheep in India today.

Its About TIME!!!

Sorry for the long delay, but we have recently found high speed internet here in India. We can now upload videos to the blog again! Thank you for bearing with us and understanding that internet around the world isn't like internet in the states! We will be uploading as often as possible. Thank you again

The boys

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Second-Hand News

This news from India comes second hand.
Andrew's grandparents, Art and Joann Gay, keep in close contact with their friends at IREF -- VTeam's current host ministry. Through their phone calls with Dee and Emmanuel Reba, we receive this news about Evan, Christian, and Andrew, and their work with India Rural Evangelical Fellowship..
(Images -- Left: IREF School Boys Below : IREF Evangelist. Below Left: Small example of crowd).
IREF One-on-One. According to their website, the central and most vital ministry of IREF is spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They make a mission of spreading the gospel to those who have never heard the "Good News". Over 200 sponsored Evangelists and Bible Ladies travel by by bicycle or foot to the remote villages around Repelle tell people the life-changing story or Jesus. Telegu Bibles are distributed and villagers are invited to further investigate by attending open air evangelistic and ultimately plant churches. But, twice a year, they speak the Gospel on an enourmous scale...
IREF and the MULTITUDES. This organization hosts two huge annual Evangelistic, or Revival-type, public events; one, for youth; and one, for adults.
V-Team arrived just in time to catch the last days of the 2009 Youth Event. Over 5,ooo teens were in attendance. Immediately after they arrived in Repalle, Christian and Andrew led worship, and Evan gave his testimony for the mass of young Indians. They also briefly crossed paths and spent a little time with an American support team for the Youth Event, from Trinity Seminary, in Deerfield, IL.

Since then, a new team has arrived at the compound, from Michigan. Approximately 15 people make up this team of Medical and Pastoral personnel. They will be serving the people of AndraPradesh, and aiding with the upcoming Adult Revival Event. This event has formerly been held on public land in the rural town, and has had 25 to 30 thousand people in attendance. However, this year, there has been Hindu opposition to public Christian meetings. So, the big event will meet on private grounds and expects a "smaller crowd" of around, 15 to 20,000 people.

The Event. People walk miles and miles from surrounding areas to get to this annual event, and they arrive en masse. The Team has been doing whatever is necessary to get things ready. For the past few days, Christian, Andrew, and Evan have been working to set up the massive facility area for the Revival crowds. Apparently most of their work hours have been spent moving bricks, building platforms, and setting up chairs.
And, this just in ... from an email to IREF Board Members:
"All members of the USA team arrived safely. Last night was the first Crusade meeting in Repalle ... no problems with neighbors ... crowds were large. Lots of work to setup for the meetings which are being held behind the school.
Meeting tonight will feature a testimony by the daughter of a high cast Hindu family ... pray for God to touch lives. Emmanuel, Dee, and the staff are very tired ... so many details to attend to ... pray for strength and endurance. "

Hopefully, first-hand news from V-Team will follow ... stay tuned.

"If you don't stand for anything, you'll fall for everything. We take a stand on God's word."
~IREF motto

(Repalle countryside)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sheer Numbers

Yesterday, I talked to Andrew at length on the phone. The Team is now settled in Repalle and learning about their new home and the ways of its people. The compound is an organized and secure place and the guys were welcomed warmly. His most profound 'first impression' of India was simply the sheer numbers of people. Here are some randomly arranged details of V-Team's current experience in India.

Travel from Uganda to India meant 3 total days of travel with only 5 total hours of sleep.

Arrival. When the team arrived at IREF, they walked through the front gates of the compound to find a professionally made banner stretched over the street which had words in Telugu (indian) and english to welcome the Team. "Evan Stookey, Andrew Leigh, and Christian Outlaw" were spelled out on the huge welcome sign.

Also, as a welcome, all of the IREF children were lining both sides of road. Hundreds upon hundreds of children were waving as the 3 guys walked down the length of about a city block.

Youth. Upon arrival, they moved into a Youth Conference with another throng of 5,000. Evan spoke, Christian and Andrew led so music/worship. Then... they slept.

Girls. The IREF compound houses over 2,500 students from early grade-school up through Nursing School. A majority of the students are girls. The guys are surrounded and feel, a little awkwardly, like 'rock stars.' Evan has fore sworn his physical appearance since Africa and wasn't worried about being surrounded by girls. Apparently, he has grown his bushy hair out, parted it down the middle, and combs it down straight and nerdy. This new look is combined with a ridiculously long beard, and the fact that he has started buttoning his shirts all the way up to his chin. For all intents and purposes, he should be quite 'safe' from female attention. But, Andrew laughs as he explains that this has had quite the opposite affect on the school girls of India. Instead, they have taken to standing right in front of Evan to say, "You are so beautiful!" He is mystified by this.

Food. Andrew observed that IREF is a highly organized ministry that is a well-oiled machine at feeding thousands of people in a day. And they are adept and gifted at hosting Americans. Their hostess, Dee Reba, has given them the option of eating either American or Indian food. And the Team has made it clear that they don't want any special provision. They are eating what everybody else is eating.

Serving. And, they are watching and praying about where God wants to uniquely use them in this new place. They are looking for ways to serve the children and leaders of this School/Church/Orphanage over the next 3-4 weeks.

Upcoming for the Team @ IREF: Another Conference. This one will be for adults. And is expected to draw an estimated 15,000 people from all around the region, to experience worship, and hear the message of Jesus.

There is only limited internet connection in Repalle, so the guys will not be able to post many pictures or video until they get to Thailand, in February. But, keep checking back for written updates!

More later ...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Arrived Safe in India

Quick Update:

After two straight days of travel, by plane and train, V-Team has arrived in Repalle, India. Evan's backpack is trailing them by a day from Dubai, but should arrive tomorrow.

The guys did not have time to rest. Upon their arrival, a large Youth Conference was already under way. So, they set down their stuff, had breakfast and were immediately involved in the event. They were quickly given the opportunity to get on stage, speak their testimonies of faith, and do worship ... for over 5,000 people.

Today, they have had dinner with their hosts (Dee and Emanuel Reba) and are taking an opportunity to rest in their new home -- a dorm at the IREF Compound.

All is well in India. Watch for more updates.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the Road Again

V-Team is on the road. This next stretch of travel as the crow flies from Uganda to Repalle, India would be 3,421 miles. However, the actual flights will take them to Dubai, in United Arab Emerites, then to Chennai (also known as Madras), India. After two long flights, the Team will add 8 hours of train travel from airport to IREF headquarters. It will be a long day of travel for Christian, Andrew, and Evan.
From the Team:

"india is dangerous and we want to share our faith but be smart in our ministry. please pray God will show us how to do this exactly. please pray for our travels as well- this one may be very intense! and last, good health -- it would be a blessing if we could be energized and ready, with eyes and ears to hear what all God has done and shown us in Jinja, and what He has for us in india!"

Destination -- The new V-Team homebase @ IREF in Repalle, India.

Check out the details of this important ministry:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Last Dispatch from Africa

"We loved you so much that we shared with you
not only God's Good News
but our own lives, too."
1 Thes. 1:8
I regret to tell you... this may be the last blog entry for Uganda!
But we are excited to move forward into tomorrow and into India to seewhat the plan is there. Thank you for bearing through this with us with minimal internet availability. We have a few videos that we are eager to post, but the opportunity has not come up yet.

In Jinja. First and foremost: we went bungee jumping. This was a growing and spiritual experience for us three and our host philip. There is something inside all of us that is a deep yearning to jump off a cliffhead first. And we found the freedom that comes with it. Andrew wrotea compelling piece of literature that accurately described what all took place. But i don't think that anything could do it justice- you are just going to have to do it yourself!

The past few days in this week have been very laid back and relationship oriented. Our time has been spent with our room mates and ladies that work for the house. Last night we spent the night justlaughing. It was Christian, Evan, Andrew, Philip, Hanifa, Betty,Rachel, and Jacob. And really- we didn't watch the movie. It was a Nigerian soap-opera that we twisted to become so comical we ended uprolling on the ground. Lines like, "I will give you millions of money...." and "my name is macy, spelled "M-A-R-C-Y" are so funny at late night especially when english isn't their first language.

There is something happening in our house that is so special. Things are beginning to liven up. There is joy and laughter and serving. It is funny how a lot of our time and energy has been spent on our roommates. Digging in with them, listening, learning and serving. One of our themed verses for this time is 1 Thes. 1:8, "We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God's Good News but our own lives, too." And through time and relationship we are able to dig deeper and pray for them. A new guy named Jacob has become our great friend whomwe are focusing on Proverbs 27:17, "as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend." we have got to walk side by side with him as hehas become a great friend and encouragement. A few new people have been walking into our lives as well which has been amazing. as we meet new room mates that come out of no where (well, Atlanta, Georgia and other places) they are speaking to us.
We are getting wisdom about the future: what to do next. We are beginning that process of what life will look like when we get home. "Now that we have been to Africa- aren't we responsible?" Now our eyes have been opened and it has been so cool to learn from all of these missionaries we've met so far here in Jinja what life and mission work might looklike going back to the states. From much wise counsel and prayer weare excited to go home and utilize what God has given us so we canagain come back more and serve HIM even more with our talents and gifts. And talking to them has helped us to further our adventure infinding our identities and how we can use all of this to serve andglorify God. To give to God what He has given us.

So tomorrow it is very possible we leave for a two-over-nighter camp/minstry thing. we are not totally sure what it involves yet, but Philip is going to have us partner with another organization in a town 60 km away. there we will be joining their HIV/AIDS outreach to offerthem education of prevention and the hope in Jesus.

"As iron sharpens iron,
a friend sharpens a friend."
Proverbs 27:17

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Postcards from the Edge

Pictures from Bungee Jumping on the Nile

The platform.
Can you see Andrew, Christian or Evan, dangling down below, or by the boat?

The jump platform, at night.

On the Edge

The Jump.
There is something about standing on the edge. This past saturday we had the opportunity to go bungee jumping. All i really have to say is that whoever decided that taking a rubber band, tying it to your ankles, and jumping off a cliff was a good idea must have been a very special person. Ever since we arrived in Jinja the prospect of jumping has loomed over us like some kind of giant anvil that you are sure can't stay up there much longer. On January 3rd we all piled into the small black mini van, and drove about ten minutes to the Nile. When we pulled into the small resort that hosted this particular jump, it became painfully clear what was going to happen.

The resort had erected what appeared to be a giant siege tower like something out of 'Lord of the Rings.' It was a 45 foot tower with thirty five foot arm, and a little gazebo looking thing on the end of that arm. This whole contraption was perched on on a 100 foot cliff. For those of you doing the math thats about 145 feet give or take. To give you some frame of reference thats about a ten story building. So here we are, starring up at this contraption from the the restaurant. We paid at the bar in the restaurant, and started the hike up to the tower.

I was the first one to go. The guys had been kind enough to let me have my desired spot. The walk out to the arm felt like something out of a movie. Two kiwi guys stood out at the end waving reassuring me to keep walking. I made the full length of the arm, and was doing my best to act relaxed. Asking questions like "is that climbing webbing" and "how many times have you jumped", And then saying thing like "Oh yah i climb i know its safe... its good stuff." However at that moment my confidence in the equipment was fading at an astonishing rate. After some more small talk the smaller of the two men said " See the restaurant? after you stand up you are going to hop to the edge and jump to the restaurant." After closer examination it was clear that some one had painted a big arrow on the top of that building, as if saying "if you have forgotten it's this way, stupid." So there I was standing on the edge. I don't know how to describe the feeling of standing there. It was some where between euphoria and utter loathing of whoever suggested jumping.

Then behind me somebody was saying something. It took me have way through "two" to realize that those where numbers, and that something had to happen when he said "one." He said "one" and with all the strength in my legs i jumped for that big arrow. I was hurling towards the earth at a astonishing rate. It all happened in what felt like slow motion. Then suddenly the rope around my ankles tightened, And every drop of blood in my body wanted to be in my face -- my eye balls to be specific. And then i was headed back to where i had just came from. This process repeated about ten times. When i had stopped bouncing they lowered me down to a waiting raft.

The edge is a place that is never a fun place to be, i have decided. This experience was probably one of the most amazing things i have ever had the opportunity to do. i would do it again in a heart beat. But there is something about standing on the edge. It sucks, and it is terrifying, and it is necessary.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

V-team took a Leap!

Yesterday evening around 6 PM, V-team went bungee jumping over the nile! It was amazing! First Andrew, then Christian, next was Philip, and finally Evan! We had a blast! The fall was 150 feet, from the east bank of the nile here in Jinja.
We will have pictures up soon!

Bungee Jumping
-- from Christian's Facebook Note:
Okay, its the morning and I am back from bungee jumping of course...and it was AWESOME!!! God is so good! man! Okay, I will explain...our whole house family gets in the car to go: Joe and Melissa (americans who are the house managers/onsite suubi managers), Amber (american volunteer), Josh (canadian volunteer), Amanda (american volunteer), Jacob (american volunteer), Betty (Ugandan, house staff), Kimbi (betty's 2 year old son), Rachel (betty's 8 yr old sister), Philip (Ugandan YL dude), Anifa (Ugandan, house staff and YL volunteer, Evan, Andrew and Myself. We get to the place and we see a big town, probably 50 ft high, on the river bank (the nile). It stretches out probably another 50 ft over the water. However, this tower sits on a cliff. From the ground to the water is another 100 feet. So, altogether, its 150 ft high, and over the water. There is a small restaurant down stream about 50 yards that sits on the cliff side as well. we go over there and pay. I also paid for philip to do a jump. Ugandans are much cheaper than americans. Gosh our high priced economy! So, after paying, we walk over to the tower and go up. We all get up there and Andrew has been asking to go first so he walks out to the end and there are 2 New Zealander guys that run the whole thing. Andrew sits down, gets tied up and 3...2...1...he jumps. Its about a 2 second free fall, and you come about 15 ft from touching the water. Then he gets down and I go....i sit down and get tied in and talk to the NZ dudes for a bit. Its time to jump. I asked if i could do a swan dive and they were like "totally bro!". so 3...2...1...i crouch down and jump, I spread my arms like wings and jump as far and as hard forward as i can. Out in front of you is the restaurant where you pay and the dudes tell you to jump towards the restaurant. The further out you jump, the better the experience, because it cause you to swing more as you are bouncing. So with arms spread, falling, I felt free, I felt liberated, I did not feel fear. I felt like i was flying. What lasted only 2 seconds felt like an eternity. Its was the most exhilarating experience i have ever had. The excelerator at eliche's has nothing on this! It was so cool, because once I was there, i wasn't scared. I was pumped and of course my heart was racing, but that was just adrenaline. It was amazing. I jumped out pretty far I guess because everyone told me that I swung really far back on my first bounce up. I felt like i was gonna touch water! So, I bounced a bunch, then they bring a raft over and two guys pull you in, untie you and then drop you at the bank. The walk back up is rough! haha. After me, philip went, then evan, and then Betty (our cook), and Amanda did a tandem jump (they jumped together). It was a great night, hanging out and getting to jump was amazing for sure. So that was bungee jumping.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

V-Team with Young Life friends in Uganda.

Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile River.

Young Life,


Young Life Friends

(Andrew and Christian far right).

New Year's Celebrations ...

Andrew with Melissa and Joe, regional directors of

"Light Gives Heat"

Evan. No really. Honest.

That's Evan.

Boda Boda driver-- Ibrahim

(next to Evan).

Amazing Children.