I just thought that I would touch base one last time this year before kicking off what is sure to be an exciting 2006!
Many of you have been tracking with us through our 'blog and our online photo album, but I figured I'd let you all know what else is going on other than all things Gabrielle Rae.
To begin with, Jasheen, Gabrielle and I are preparing to visit Jasheen's family in Singapore this January. We leave New Year's Day and are very excited about introducing Jasheen's parents to their granddaughter. This trip is truly a gift from the Lord. One of our dear friends and donors offered Jasheen and I enough frequent flyer miles to cover one of our tickets. When mom and dad heard about the trip, they decided to give us an early Christmas present by paying for the other one. That only left Gabrielle's ticket for us to purchase. Have you ever heard of a family of three flying roundtrip from the UK to Singapore for $84.00? What a blessing!
The new year is not even here yet and there are already some very exciting things happening for us to look forward to. One of the things that we have literally heard pastors here ask is, "How do we disciple people?" Recognizing that there is a great need for discipleship training and equipping, two of my teammates and I will be launching a leadership training program for local Christian leaders here in Glasgow at the end of January. It will be a microcosm of our nieuCommunities 42-week intensive experience in that it will last about 13 weeks and contain three 1-2 day retreats. Although the experience will be more brief, it should prove more than helpful for a generation of young church leaders here in Glasgow. I look forward to sharing about this in the future.
Members of my team are also looking forward to a pastor's conference being held in Geneva next May. Beginning next spring and carrying on through the summer we will be playing host to a number of groups that come to Glasgow on a "Beyond Borders Road Trip." This is effectively a two week version of the 10 month experience. Groups will be coming to learn and minister alongside us, getting a taste of whether or not this is something the Lord is calling them to do on a larger scale.
But perhaps the biggest and most exciting event we're looking forward to is happening in June. Every four years CRM has a worldwide staff conference that all staff around the world come to. There will be more than 500 people attending so it always has to be at an affordable, but big location. In the past it's been in cities such as Budapest, Hungary and Caracas, Venezuela, but this year it's in beautiful, sunny Santa Barbara, California... at Westmont College, no less (my alma mater). While this isn't the most exotic of locations, it does mean that we will be coming home and able to make a bit of a vacation out of the trip.
Some of you may recall that last January members of our team planted a church here called Regarding Hope (http://www.rehope.co.uk/). We're almost one year old and we have truly seen the Lord move in the lives of the people who come. In the last five weeks we've seen seven young adults become followers of Jesus. We are finding that while relationship is a very large part of introducing someone to a life devoted to Jesus, sometimes it's the simplest of things that ultimately gets them through the door... like just asking them if they want to. Some of the ways the Lord is reaching these people is astonishing. One guy picked up one of the church's cards that was left in his building's entry way and thought to himself, "I should go to this." That Sunday, knowing no one at the church, he came and gave his life to Christ. Another guy was sitting in one of his university classes (an Evolution class) and thought to himself, "This can't be right." He knew another guy who attends our church and asked if he could come along. On his first visit to re:hope he, too, gave his life to Jesus. Hallelujah! Amazing, huh?!? There are two teenage girls that have been coming to church since we started - never professing faith, but feeling a sense of belonging all the while. They're kind of affectionately known as the punk-girls (mainly b/c they're hair changes color every week - pink, blue, zebra, etc.). After spending a year in fellowship with us, within a week of each other they prayed to receive Christ.
It's funny, but it's things like this that show me how weak my faith is. It's weak b/c it surprises me so much when these kinds of things happen. Given all that I know about our God, I should be expecting these kinds of life-changing events to take place. I should be thanking God in advance for them... instead, I'm shocked when I hear that a teenage punk-rock chick who has spent a year with our community decides to accept Jesus. WHY WOULDN'T SHE??? Anyone who meets with Jesus every week for a year is either going to love him or hate him. And I think that through our love and acceptance she has been meeting with Jesus. Please pray for me and my team that our faith would increase and that we would continue to be Jesus in the lives of the young people that find their way to re:hope.
It may be noticeable that I'm not sharing much about Gabrielle. She is 11 weeks old today and is doing great! Jasheen and I love her to bits and probably kiss her more than she likes. I think I do a pretty good job of keeping the online photo album current so feel free to check that out from time to time - in fact, there are new photos up now. The web addresses to our photos and our online journal (or blog) are at the bottom of this email below my signature.
Please have a wonderful Christmas holiday this season. Don't get lost in the husltle. Remember that Jesus came to bring PEACE ON EARTH. It would be a shame to miss out on the very thing that he came to bring b/c we're so overwhelmed packing our schedules, shopping 'til we drop and worrying about... uh... the in-laws. ;)
Jasheen and I feel so very loved and prayed for and we thank all of you for your contributions to our lives.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The McKenzie Clan