Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome Home - A Letter to Marissa


Hi. First of all, I need to say I've never written an open letter to anyone before...especially someone I've never met. But here goes anyway. I'm definitely not trying to embarrass you in any way (of course, we only have about 141 readers), and I really am hoping it's OK to share a little bit of your story with the world.

As you know by now, this whole "me finding out about you thing" started a few weeks ago after CT and I led a night of worship to open Chick-fil-A's corporate seminar in Orlando. Afterwards, I was hanging out backstage when your mom and dad made a beeline for me. Though it was a little dark backstage, their faces were radiant as your mom began to tell me your story.

I was instantly glued as she told me how He spoke so powerfully to you during one of the night sessions at Passion 07, moving you so strongly that you walked out after the talk determined to touch the peoples of the world. I don't know for sure, but by what she was saying I'm guessing it was the message "An After Party For All Nations." The whole point of what God was saying to us in that message was that the good news we are carrying is for the whole world, yet most will never know it until some of us cash in the "normal" American life and head their way. I'm guessing a bunch of people agreed with the talk, but you decided to go...right then and there.

I don't know for sure, but something tells me you could walk back into Philips Arena (or the GWCC, I don't know which venue you were in that night) and walk right to the seat you were sitting in when His call on your heart met a resounding, "I will go, God. And I want to go right now."

As your mom's talking, I have this incredible picture of a 19 year old KSU student leaving this session with something burning inside that could not be quenched. The way I heard it, you came to Passion 07 with questions already stirring in your heart. Not sure of your academic path, you were feeling like you wanted more clarity before enrolling in another set of classes, plunking your money (or your parent's) down for another semester and buying a new set of textbooks for another round of classes. Seems like you were unsure of some things, yet pretty confident you didn't want to waste time when the whole world was experiencing an emergency on an epic scale.

Pretty soon you found yourself kicking around in the Go Center, checking out opportunities to engage in God's purposes around the globe. Human sex trade caught your heart and soon Thailand came into focus. Before long you were back home telling your parents what many dread, "Mom, dad...I'm dropping out of college for a while and running after this passion I have to extend rescue and repair to people I have never met. I'm not sure where I'm going or exactly what I'm going to do when I get there, but God willing, I'm going. I know Jesus is going...and I'm going with Him."

At this point I was trying pretty hard to read your mom's face, wondering how she was going to respond. If she had had issues with it, I would have understood. Passion is not about being hasty or neglecting commitments. That's not God's way and often leads to people jumping at opportunities that are not well thought through, not supported by those that matter most in their lives or, in the end, not that helpful to those who are the intended recipients of the effort. But you did something that showed so much maturity and wisdom. You downloaded the talk and had your whole family listen to it...and by doing so you gave them all the chance to come around what had arrested you. That was a very cool thing to do, and I know went a long way with your mom and dad.

Well, at this point I'm REALLY glad we came to the CFA seminar (the seminar was amazing, but this little God-connection made the night even more special). Your mom told me how you started searching the Internet looking for a way to turn your Thailand dream into reality. In time, you came across a place called Home of Joy, a small orphanage in Chang Mai that was looking for six-month volunteers. By summer you were on a plane with your dad to the other side of the globe. As he told it, the moment he had to say goodbye and get on the flight back to the States was one of the hardest of his life. But then he said something potent happened. He said you put your hand on his shoulder and prayed over him. I got chills. He told me how your prayer for him blew him away and gave him the strength to leave his daughter in a far away place and head for home. He said it was one of the most amazing things that has ever happened in his life.

The flight departed and soon you were alone with your new family at HOJ, loving precious little Thai children in Jesus' name...investing in the future of little lives and a needy nation. I've been to Chang Mai a few times, and while it certainly has a sense of charm and appeal (from time to time I still crave a banana and condensed milk Roti from the street vendors), I really am not sure I could get fired up about staying there for six months. That's a lot of tuk-tuks! But you did. You stayed. And served. And prayed. And fought through the struggles. And though you wondered. And missed home so much. You kept going. And made it to the finish. In by doing so, you changed the world.

Now the tables are turned, and you find yourself back in the US, probably laying awake at night with those children's beautiful faces in your mind. I'm guessing you find your thoughts always drifting their way...wondering how they are, and if they miss you, and if it mattered and if they will one day become all God has always dreamed they will be. And you've probably wondered if someone else somewhere in the world is feeling that explosion in their chest you felt that night in Atlanta, and hoping their "Yes" to God will eventually lead them to Chang Mai to take your place.

Your mom said you weren't sure what the next part of the story looked like yet, but that you're looking to get back into school and taking steps toward playing a more permanent role in God's global story. I have no doubt His voice will be clear, and the days ahead will be purpose-filled vs. just more "college days" squandered as many often are.

Well, somehow this letter has become quite lengthy (no surprise to those who know me), but all I really wanted to say is that you have become a huge inspiration to Shelley and me and our Passion team. I scribbled a quick note in my semi-illegible handwriting for your mom to pass on to you that night, but I wanted another chance to tell you how much your story means to us.

I know there are countless others like you, students propelled to the far corners of the world as a result of God's call at a Passion gathering. That's so humbling...and what the whole Movement is all about. Marissa, you are what Passion is all about. And you put a brilliant face on everything we do. We are honored to be in this crazy God-adventure with you and are believing greater things are yet to come in your life!

Welcome home,

Saturday, March 15, 2008

All Eyes On Atlanta

Shelley and I were in Nashville over the weekend checking in on the latest Tomlin recording when we saw the news of the tornadoes that slammed into Atlanta Friday night. If you were at Passion 07, your heart dropped like ours when you saw the area around Philips Arena, the GWCC, the Omni Hotel, CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park trashed. Given that both Philips and the Dome were filled with people, it's a miracle that no one was seriously hurt or killed. Sadly, some in the metro area were not as fortunate as more storms rolled through during the day today.

Thanks to all of you who thought about us at the Passion House. All is well in little Alpharetta, but all eyes seem to be on Atlanta and that gives us an opportunity to say that Passion Atlanta is just four weeks away and space is going fast. The price went up at midnight Friday and registration is currently over 8500. We are reconfiguring some production pieces to get as many people as possible in the Arena at Gwinnett Center, but any way you slice it less than 1000 tickets remain with a month to go. If you're planning on coming, I wouldn't wait around!

We'll have more updates on exact numbers soon!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beautiful Down Under

Hello from one of the most stunning places on the planet - Gorgeous Sydney. It's pretty strange leaving the snow of Seoul for the sunny skies of Sydney, but it couldn't be a more spectacular summer day and we are soaking it in.

Thanks to everyone for praying for the meetings in Seoul last week. I have to say I am overwhelmed by the way God is putting the pieces together. For starters, our lunch meeting with a handful of the most influential leaders of student ministry in Korea was truly amazing. Following the lunch, about 60 pastors and para-local church ministry leaders gathered to hear about the vision for Passion Seoul. Most people who walked into the room couldn't believe the breadth of ministries represented, a great sign of greater things to come. Our team did a heroic job gathering the right people and bridging the gap. I left feeling like the potential for something generation-changing was before us, and can't wait to see where things lead heading up to October.

A long flight landed us in Sydney, where I spent the weekend with 16000 women at Hillsong's Color Conference. Yep, me, Shelley and 16000 women. I have to say it was quite a sight and a powerful few days serving God with friends and watching an army of women mobilize to change the world. (More on that later).

Last night, all the folks at Hillsong Church gathered back in the Acer Arena in Olympic Park (where the conference was) for a massive worship service. About 14000 people turned up for an incredibly powerful time...a tiny glimpse of forever and a hopeful sign of what our great God is doing around the world.

If you didn't know already, Sydney is an absolutely breath-taking city. As I write I'm looking over Circular Quay in Sydney Harbor..the Harbor Bridge on my left and the Opera House on my right, with a panoramic view from the 35th floor of our hotel. I couldn't possibly describe the beauty as bright sunshine begins to give way to twinkling harbor lights.

News of tragic deaths at Auburn and UNC have reached us here and broken our hearts. Let's all pledge our prayers and support to the families and friends of these two precious young women, and live for what matters so that heaven is in every student's heart.

Headed home soon,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Seoul Rising

Morning sun gave way to some crazy snow showers here in Seoul, a bustling city of ten million people and endless high rise condo towers. Today (it's already Wednesday here) we are having lunch with a few friends and key ministry leaders and a 2 PM meeting with pastors representing most of the major churches and ministries throughout the city.

Seoul is an interesting dynamic, a place where the Christian church has only really exploded in the past fifty years. And explode, it has. We visited today with friends (guests who were at Passion Dallas) at one of the largest churches in Seoul where they oversee ministry to the thousands of young adults and college students. When I say large, this church has 90 different services on a Sunday and has 20,000-25,000 people come through the building (they are growing fast and have trouble keeping count). And that's just this campus. In other places throughout the city that many more are meeting, as well.

But it's not the size of the church that floors you, it's the fervency. As we walked in the main auditorium (seats about 2500-3000) in the late afternoon there were three women deep in prayer scattered across the room. The one closest to me in the balcony was crying out to God with everything she had. I'm pretty sure she never noticed four guys walking around her touring the place. She was weeping, and calling out to God in a language I could not understand, but with a passion and intensity I felt immediately drawn towards. And, as I was told, someone is praying in the place all the time. That doesn't count the three weekday morning prayer meetings at 6 AM which are packed, or the forty days of prayer that just ended where people had to arrive before 4 AM to get a seat for a service that started at 5 AM!

Needless to say it was a powerful image to see on the day First Monday was being posted back in the States. I started thinking about all of our churches, and wondered if you walked into most of them in the late afternoon (or anytime, for that matter) how many people you could hear weeping in the seats. I think we like the idea of praying. But these people believe in the power of prayer.

We went out to the Olympic Park later and walked through the venue we are trusting God to give us for October. (The government has to say yes and they won't even talk to us officially yet!) They were tearing down the stage from an event the night before (The Moonies!) and we just stood and looked at thousands of empty seats...wondering if what "has been" in Korea could "be again" in this new university generation in Seoul. We're humbled to be here, and anxious to see what God will do. But, first we must pray (the kind where you actually pray), because nothing great ever happens without it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

United-First Monday Prayer/March

It’s amazing to think people are reading these words on just about every continent right now (I'm not sure we have any readers in Antarctica, yet!), miles apart, but united by a common belief that God can reach the 132 million university students worldwide with rescue and repair.

Many of us have been in the same building in recent months and weeks, while others of us have never officially met. But we all are united by a desire to see the world change, and a hope that the sum of our lives will amplify the name of Jesus on our campuses and around the globe.
So, wherever you are today, you are not alone. We are one wave...with one voice for His great fame.

The point of First Monday is to join our voices as we humble ourselves before a limitless God, asking Him to do what we alone could never do. Don’t just read the words, be still and bow before Him. Believe and pray, for our God is mighty to save.

16 (2+6+8) Prayer Points For March

1. We are grateful for amazing events in Dallas and DC. We asked for a lot and saw the faithfulness and goodness of God. So let’s begin by thanking Him for all He has done.

2. 9000 students from Dallas and DC are back on over 550 campuses today. Ask God to fan the flames of hope, healing, life and vision that were sparked in those days.

3. We met a new friend at Passion DC. Sam, a college student from China, blew us away with her story and smile. Let’s pray today that she will be encouraged and used by God to bring light and truth to her campus and nation. Sam, if you're reading this you have 3000 new friends in America!

4. Passion Atlanta is 40 days away. It’s not too early to ask God to prepare the way in what will be our last US event in 2008.

5. We are inviting college leaders and pastors together on March 13 to shared ,\ the vision of Passion Atlanta. Though we have hosted sold out events here, we don’t want one student to miss this gathering because they don’t know about it. Pray the story will spread and more students will come. Pray they will overcome any hurdles that stand in their way.

6. Please continue to pray for the Passion Team as these days are packed with long hours, multiple challenges and the strains that come when you strive for great things.

7. The Passion World Tour is 10 weeks away! Pray for our first stop in Kyiv, Ukraine. Many factors have shifted for this event beyond our control, but we still believe this is going to be a catalytic event for the university students of Ukraine. Pray the vision will flourish among our partners there and the logistical details will come together.

8. We are thanking God for His provision as the World Tour budget pushes upwards (close to 7 million). In Dallas and DC combined, over $100,000 was given, and gifts large and small continue to arrive daily. God is amazing, and has everything we need. Millions more are needed reach our goals.

9. Our Kuala Lumpur team has just returned from Malaysia with great reports. Pray that much fruit will come from their meetings and that the next steps for this event will fall into place quickly.

10. Pray God will raise up strategic people we have yet to meet in each World Tour city...people of vision with favor and influence to open doors we could not open in our own efforts.

11. This week (March 2-7) we have a team in London preparing for our stop at The Hammersmith Apollo. Pray that a huge wave of momentum will follow their visit. Tickets for Passion London are now on sale!

12. Louie is posting this Blog from Seoul, Korea, where he and some of our team are meeting with pastors and ministry leaders there. It is important for the senior pastors of Seoul to catch the heartbeat of Passion Seoul (something that has already happened among many college leaders there) and give their support and blessing to this event. Pray a Kingdom mindset will prevail.

13. Our Mexico City team hosted Mexican guests in Dallas and are now in the final stages of securing a venue for this event. Pray for favor with government authorities and leaders in Mexico City.

14. We need the right connections for a venue in Hong Kong, the World Tour stop Sam hopes to attend.

15. Ask God to cover our volunteer team leads, national partners, bands, and support staff in these weeks leading up to May.

16. Thank God for what He’s doing around the globe, and thank Him in advance for what we have not seen. He’s going to blow us away on the Passion World Tour.

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Psalm 127:1-2 (NAS)