Throughout our time here at GSP we have been incredibly blessed by the various input that we've received. Shortly after the students arrived we heard briefly from our International President, Mike Treneer. I've been really blessed by his teaching and input over the years, and this was no exception. He shared how very often in these settings (conferences, summer training programs, etc.) people have "mountaintop" experiences where they feel like if they just would put out their hands they could touch God. However, he shared, very often after people leave these settings and return to "normal life" they can descend into the valley having the same struggles that they had before, and the mountain tops can make the valleys seem even deeper. This leads to a rollercoaster experience of the Christian life. Mike shared that this had been his experience, and it has been mine to. (I'll share personally, but the main thoughts and ideas here are Mike's).
I've had many "mountaintop" experiences in my Christian life thus far. I can remember many of them very vividly. I've also experienced many "valleys" and know the sting of defeat and the disillusionment that follows. Often on these mountaintops we make promises to God: "God, I'll never do this again" or "I promise to only live for you each and ever moment of the rest of my life" and on and on and on. All too often, in my own life and in the lives of friends that I know and love, these promises can become the standing of our faith. We can think well I know I'm growing in my walk with God because, well look at the promises I've made. Or I must be a committed follower look at all the promises I've made.
Then when we leave these peaks and resume our normal lives, we realize we can't keep these promises and we feel even worse. "Wow, I must really be horrible if I can't do this or continue doing that." And we experience the rollercoaster. As Mike shared about this he also shared the story where he really felt confronted by the Lord about this. He was in a place where a close friend of his had died and he felt he needed to pray and recommit himself (i.e. make a new promise to God). He felt like the Lord was saying to him, it's not about your promises, but about the promises I've given you! How amazing, that the basis of our life stands not on our promises to God but on His promises to us!!!
Mike shared that he still experiences highs and lows, but that in the midst of them he has learned to look not to his words to God, but on God's Word to him! I was so blessed and encouraged by this. I've found myself thinking on this again and again throughout the past weeks. I'm reminded of one of my favorite passages of Scripture: one that Kathryn and I had read at our wedding and one that I pray through and think on often.
"And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul." - Jeremiah 32:38-41
What strikes me about this passage is how all of the "they wills" (what God's people will do, their promises so to speak) flow from the "I wills" of the passage (what God is promising to do). I find myself standing on these promises often, preaching the gospel to myself from this passage (truly these promises find their fulfillment through the life, death, resurrection, exaltation and soon coming return of Christ)! This message from Mike has been a huge blessing to Kathryn and I this summer as we continue to wait for our visas and pour out our lives to these fantastic internationals here in Colorado! I hope it is a blessing to you as well.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
It was just last Saturday afternoon (the 24th) when we noticed some billows of smoke in the distance. Having lived in Iowa the past several years, we didn't think too much of it- probably just a little fire somewhere in the forest, right?
We then got news that the fire was in Waldo Canyon, which is really close to The Navigator Headquarters and Conference Center at Glen Eyrie (a beautiful historical monument in Colorado Springs- check out our earlier Blog Post "Getting Started" to see some pics of the Glen and it's castle). We also learned that the fire was a bigger deal than we realized, covering 300 acres on the first day. The Global Student Program as well as all other Navigator staff were evacuated off of the Glen Eyrie property.
Not only was Glen Eyrie at risk, but so was Eagle Lake, our Navigator summer camp for kids. Pictured above is a view of the fire from Eagle Lake. By Tuesday morning, the fire covered about 5,000 acres and by Tuesday evening it covered around 16,000 acres (it tripled in one day). For several days, over 1200 firemen and women came from all over the US to fight the fire, which was deemed the highest priority fire in the US.
Pictured above is a helicopter dropping 400 gallons of water into the fire over and over again. There were also C-130's dropping flame retardant into the worst areas. The smoke got really really bad over the course of the week. We have never experienced anything like it and several people were sent to the hospital because of it (none from our group).
Above is a picture from Tuesday, when the fire breached the ridge and raced down toward the city. This was the scariest day by far. The following pictures were taken in the midst of these neighborhoods being evacuated, many were scrambling to grab things and get out of the city. Within an hour over 20,000 additional people were evacuated from their homes.
Above is a picture of the smoke covering the sky and the sun (which at several points throughout the evening looked blood red).
When the fire went over the ridge, people had only minutes to evacuate from their homes because the fire was moving so fast. Pictured above are homes burning from about 10 miles away. Around 350 homes were burned down in the fire, including the homes of 9 Navigator Staff (one being the US President of The Navigators). Several businesses were also lost, including The Flying W Ranch.
Miraculously, in the middle of thousands and thousands of acres of burning forest, Glen Eyrie and the main section of Eagle Lake remained untouched. We are rejoicing over God's protection of our Navigator property, but are mourning with so many who have lost everything that they own. We have been reminded and are thankful that in Christ we are storing up treasures in Heaven that moth, rust and fire cannot destroy. Though we are definitely thankful that God protected our buildings, we feel so blessed to be a part of a ministry that isn't made up of buildings but rather is made up of people.
GSP in the Midst of the Fire
In the midst of everything, it was amazing to watch God provide for the GSP. Just as a reminder, GSP is made up of Navigator staff and students from 12 countries around the world. Can you imagine being away from your home country only to find yourself in a foreign nation currently in the middle of it's #1 natural disaster at the time? Students were scared, parents were concerned and our GSP director had a lot of big decisions to make. However, the fellowship, spiritual conversations and unity that came about were amazing and truly a blessing.
We found great comfort in Psalm 121 which says "I lift my eyes up to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber... The LORD will keep you from all evil, He will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." As we looked to the hills and saw the fire, we had confidence and assurance in the promises of God.
We were displaced on Saturday and headed toward a church to stay for the night. However, that church was then evacuated and we were sent to another church where GSP and Eagle Lake counselors spent the night. The next day all of our staff and students were placed in different homes where they have all been until today (they finally got to move back onto the Glen today!).
Throughout this week several businesses provided an abundance of food for us, and we were able to carry on with the program as normally as we could. Below are some pictures of the food God provided for us, for free! We still heard from our regularly scheduled speakers including Jim Downing, Paul Stanley, Randy Raysbrook and so on. Teams were still meeting in their host homes for Bible Studies, One on Ones, etc. A group of 12 of us even got to help Jerry and Jane Bridges clean their home after the smoke cleared out! That was a treat!
Yesterday GSP began to clean up at the Glen. It has been a lot of hard work getting the smoke out and getting the conference center ready for business, but our staff and students have been working hard to serve in whatever way we can. Thanks for all your prayers for our safety, provision and protection- God has answered!
We are incredibly thankful for the firefighters, policemen, and other officials who risked their lives to protect us and so many! We are also thankful for the businesses and families that sacrificed to graciously provide for us!