Category: Prayer Letters

Prayer and Praise

Praise: Athletes

I love this picture of Albany, Jordan, me, Lucy, and Megan at our Christmas brunch, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the 20+ athletes that the Lord has been continuing to surface across the city for me to work with this year. Would you join me in praising the Lord for the faith steps Albany, Lauren and Margaret are taking to share with teammates and friends? Would you praise Jesus for Lucy who has been trusting the Lord for reconciliation in Friendships? And would you praise the Lord for Mireille who has been sharing the gospel with her equestrian teammates?

Prayer: Jacksonville

Over the next two weeks we’re taking 40 students from schools across Boston to Florida to work with my friend Debbie who works with Cru Inner City in Jacksonville. In the morning we’ll be doing manual labor and in the afternoons we’ll be playing with kids and running carnival/picnics at some housing projects to invite kids to a summer camp. Half of the students coming with us on the trip do not yet know Jesus, so we think it’s an incredible opportunity to share Christ in the context of community. Would you pray for our non-Christian friends, for the people we’ll be serving, and for the trip overall? Brian and I are taking our kids too, so pray for great opportunities to reach out and serve as a family – and for travelling mercies!

Prayer: Musicians at Berklee/BoCo, and NEC

Brian has had so much fun meeting with a small group of musicians at some of the incredible music schools and conservatories in Boston. It has been amazing to watch them start to share their faith with their friends and consider how art and performance and the gospel intersect. Over the next few Saturdays, one of our students, Madeline, is hosting dinners for non-Christian friends. Would you pray the Gospel is clear to these students?

Praise: Emmanuel Freshmen

We’ve been praying for years that a movement would launch and grow at Emmanuel College. We’ve been celebrating this new group all year, but we’re especially excited that there’s a whole group of freshmen joining us in Jacksonville. Would you pray a powerful week for them?

We are so thankful for each of you. If you ever wonder if you’re making a difference for the Lord… wonder no longer! Your prayers and support mean that students in Boston and beyond get to hear about Jesus. Thank you so much for praying for and with us.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Bonus Videos – Students and Alumni on Social Media

These videos may find their way into a prayer letter soon, but I wanted to share them with you first. A couple weeks ago, we had a panel of students share about social media. I also asked a couple of our alumni to make a little selfie video to share with our students.

Talking about how we engage with social media and do online identity is certainly a hot topic today on campus. But I think there’s something in here for all of us as we continue to engage and bring our full selves to both physical and online interactions with our friends.

I’m the first to say I haven’t “arrived” on this stuff. I’m still trying to figure out how I best engage with non-christian friends in a winsome way online.

Anyway, here’s 3 un-edited vertical videos. I’d love to know what you think. (apparently, vertical videos are a thing now. So weird to me)

The Significance of Two Pennies

Saturday night it was snowing hard outside. But inside our meeting room, the sound was a little like rain on a tin roof. I could hear pennies dropping into a bowl in the front of the room. Students were walking up to the bowl, dropping in a couple pennies and sitting down.

Over 100 Asian American students from the east coast gathered together last weekend and at the end of their leadership retreat, we challenged them to take two pennies and offer them back to God. These pennies, like those given by the widow in Mark 12, represented two things:

It’s a small amount of money. They cost more to mint than they are worth. This represents what we have to give to Jesus. It’s a piddly, insignificant amount.
It may be insignificant, but it’s also representative of all we have. What we have is mostly failures and brokenness and that’s what we’re giving back to Jesus.
The idea — that we want to take everything we have and give it to Jesus — is at the heart of what we’re trying to do with Cru.

Ariel, one of our students from Brandeis, said, “One thing I take away from the Epic Conference: God doesn’t love us more or less depending on how we work to earn his love. And there’s nothing I can offer beyond submitting to His will. I loved the penny analogy. That we don’t really have anything to offer to God. He takes our brokenness and gives us a calling.”

A BU grad shared, “In my family, worth and love is based on performance. But I was challenged at Epic that in God’s family, I don’t have to ‘do’ anything.”

Across the country, we have winter conferences for students that are spread geographically and we also have some conferences, like this Epic Conference I helped out at this weekend that are designed to serve ethnic minority students (Asian Americans in this case).

Reaching every student on every campus means that we need to cross cultures and create environments where students can take their next steps with Jesus.

For this group of students, the next step was to give everything to Jesus – their work, their studies, their success, their failures, all of who they were…even if it was just a couple pennies.

Pastor Enoch, from Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, the speaker at the Epic Conference,  shared a great image from John 21 that I had never noticed before: When Jesus invites the disciples to have breakfast with him, he asks them to bring some of the fish they just caught (something not based on their skill as fishermen, but based on Jesus causing the catch). But John tells us that the charcoal fire Already had fish laid out on it (vs. 9). In other words – when Jesus asks us to give us everything, it’s not only that he is the one who gives us everything in the first place, He already has all that he needs. He already has the fish.

What about you? What gifts has God given to you that he is asking you to give back? What pennies do you have to give back? Will you do it?

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

If you’d like to hear more of Pastor Enoch’s talks from the Epic Conference, here’s a link.

You shared… How do I grow in my love for God’s Word

Last month, we asked you, our ministry partners, what you do to grow in your love of God’s word. Here’s some of what you said:

Thanks for your prayers!
We will also, continue to pray for you two, your children and your students.
I do love the Word! I teach ‘Redemptive History’ twice a week so most days I am studying the Word.
I also have time, in the morning for a devotional.
Our son has pointed me to the Bible Project (which he is so excited about!!)
This is what I do – Hopefully this is encouragement and not my trying to impress!!! You asked so I wanted to respond.

I read with great interest your November newsletter.  I am a strong proponent of studying God’s word and have been reading commentaries since I became  “born again” almost 40 years ago.  I was very fortunate in attending churches that believed in strong Bible teaching.  I started out with Mastering the Old Testament series with Lloyd J. Ogilvie as the General editor.  Each book of the Bible was exposited by someone that Ogilvie picked as being an excellent communicator.  Many of the authors did not have extensive degrees, although some did, but they were picked because they could communicate clearly.  In the words of Ogilvie in his Editor’s preface “the authors are scholar-preachers and teachers outstanding in their ability to make scriptures come alive for individuals and groups.”  And in fact most did an admirable job.  The series morphed into a series called The Communicator’s Commentary series that I acquired and studied for several decades.   For the last 10 years I have been studying James Montgomery Boice’s commentaries.  And have found them to be outstanding.  Along with that I go to a Precept classes with my wife.  I don’t do the course work, but I do attend all the classes I can because the instructor is a college level teacher who is fascinating,  She has been with Kay Arthur on foreign teaching missions and has worked with precept ministries in the past helping prepare for release of new studies.

I started out as a new believer to understand what all the hype was about.  Shelley had a thunder bolt experience that left me in the dust wondering what was happening after ten years of marriage.  But Father Petersen at St Johns  opened my eyes and the early morning study of God’s Word has been an almost constant for the last 40 years.  I urge you to encourage your “disciples”  to not only read the bible but to study it with good Bible believing commentators.  I used the One Year Bible as an exercise in reading the Bible once a year for about 4 consecutive years but I found that in the end I was just reading words without knowing the meaning.  I needed to know what it meant, hence the commentaries.

Right now I’m just finishing my first ever time reading the entire bible in less than one year. It feels like I’m rounding the corner on the last mile, and I’m so stoked. I’ve been using a bible plan that puts me in a different section of the Bible each day of the week and it’s been so neat to see new connections all through scriptures.

Please pray that I will take my bible study more seriously. I never prepare at all, and I know I’m missing out on so much. It’s just I don’t know where that space in my schedule is to work on it each week. Pray I find it. Thanks! I’m praying for you too.

Reading the Bible every day and daily praying his been a part of my routine for years.  It has been good to imagine being alone and listening to God.

Just a quick note to let you know that I love the Bible App.  I think it is available on almost any platform.  The thing that really got me is the Reading Plans.  I took part in a 21 day challenge back in 2012 (they usually hold them in February) , and I have been consistently reading the Bible daily since then.  While I know that completing daily reading, checking boxes, getting badges, completion streaks, etc. might be performance oriented, I think it is okay to acknowledge what drives and motivates us.  When it results in helping to form a daily Bible reading habit, I think the ends justify the means, to some degree.  Of course, there have been times where I have just been going through the motions, but even in those times, I can’t help but think that there is some degree of benefit.  Not what I am striving for, of course, but at least my baseline has moved up from inconsistency and guilt!

Anyway, I thought I would share, as I have been able to engage a number of other people in this, with what I believe are fruitful results.  My daughter now engages in daily Bible reading on her own, my 11 year old nephew has gotten involved, and we have a large portion of our church that are friends in the app and comment and share thoughts on their plans and other passages they are reading.  I could see this as a great vehicle to connect people in your college community that would be encouraged to see others making a similar effort.  To the extent that you bought in and were posting comments, it would provide an example of how to read and study different passages.  Our pastor does that, and I find it encouraging.

I do love the Word! I teach ‘Redemptive History’ twice a week so most days I am studying the Word.

I also have time, in the morning for a devotional.
Our son has pointed me to the Bible Project (which he is so excited about!!)
I’m working through key passages in the local dialect in Arabic. It’s not just a language learning task–I often find that God speaks to me really clearly when I have to go really slowly and concentrate hard and pay close attention to his Word. But it is hard work, and I am really good at finding other “more urgent” (or less taxing) tasks to do.
Actually I pray daily that I would hunger and thirst for God and have been actively involved in Precepts Bible Study.
Usually when I am on break from bible study I take a complete break but this summer I decided to stay in the Word so I read through the book of Acts.  On Christmas break I will do another study on Romans.  We are studying Acts in precepts right now and as I get to see the Holy Spirit actively working through the apostles and new believers I realize I have that same Holy Spirit and I need to be spreading the gospel as well.  It is so important to know His Word.  I am going to continue to pray that God continues to draw many to Himself through your ministry AND that they will hunger and thirst for HIM by totally immersing themselves in His Word!!
I’m usually good about reading the Bible when I wake up early to go to work. The house is quiet because I’m the only one awake, so there are many fewer distractions. I am not as good at this on days off because there are five other people in the house with their own needs and agendas. I need to be more faithful to incorporate them into the reading of the Bible so we can do it more consistently as a family  when I am home on the weekends. They do it together during the week, but the altered schedule of the weekend has been challenging for us.

 

Reading God’s Word: The Problem

Reading God’s Word: The Problem

Yesterday in our discipleship group with some student guys, I asked a question: “What have you guys been reading lately in the God’s Word?”

  • “Not much, I should be reading more.”
  • “To tell you the truth, I haven’t been reading much of the Bible lately.”
  • “I guess I’ve been looking at a little of John’s gospel, and maybe a psalm.”
  • “I’ve got to get that back into my schedule.”

This makes me sad because I want our students to LOVE God’s word.That’s something I think about often: how do I cultivate a love for God’s word in the students I work with?

Here’s our family and a group of students Malisa and I work with at our Fall Retreat.

Lucy’s Story

Lucy from Northeastern started coming to Malisa’s athlete bible study last year. She was a new believer, but eager to grow and learn about Jesus.

Every Summer, Malisa loves to give the girls she works with a book to read that would encourage them or spur them on. This summer, she gave them Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. The book teaches the basics of how to study the Bible (and despite the title is something men can learn from too!).

So over the summer Lucy taught herself to read the bible. And now she’s flourishing. She can’t get enough of studying His Word.

We love that Lucy loves to play with our girls.

Your Story

How about you? How did you first come to understand God’s word? How has your reading of the bible changed?

Growing a Love for God’s Word

Over the years, Malisa and I have grown a huge love for God’s word. This looks different at different times in our lives. On a summer mission trip to Berlin as a student, I had tons of time and so I wrote my own (very poor) commentary on Hebrews. When Malisa and I were dating, she had the space to have long quiet times with her bible and her journal in the living room of her home in Seattle. Now as parents of 3 little kids, it looks different.

Solutions for me

Now, I grab bits of the Bible wherever I can. I love reading it to my children (often with the Jesus Storybook Bible). I get to study Ephesians during our summers in the Middle East. But much of my connection with God’s word comes in bits – in Podcast form, in apps on my phone, by reading devotional books on my Kindle, by listening to sermons, by reading to prepare for time with students. I’ve recently been enjoying both the podcast and videos of The Bible Project. Jacqui, one of our students, turned me onto the videos and my friend Dan turned me on to the podcast.

Solutions for our students

My friend and co-worker Todd was in my discipleship group yesterday. He was very tender: “I don’t want you to hear this as performance, but since you all just said you wanted to grow in reading God’s word, what would be a good next step for you?”

  • Nick wants to switch up his bedtime routine and remove youtube and add some bible reading. When’s bedtime? The earliest is at 12:30.
  • Sam wants to read a chapter of the bible every night and take some notes (“without notes, it’s like I didn’t read it”) between 9:30 and 10 pm
  • Christian wants to take out the willpower required and maybe read in the afternoon or evening – rather than the morning when he can’t concentrate. When I shared the idea of listening to the bible as a podcast or something while walking to class or going to the gym, he loved the idea – “I like double tasking.”

What about you?

What about you? What would be a good next step at getting into God’s word?

  • Reading at a particular time
  • Listening to the bible
  • Listening to the bible being taught (sermon series or podcast)
  • Writing it out
  • Contemplative bible reading

Would you take a moment and reply to this e-mail with your next step?

Tell me your next step

Would you pray

  • Would you pray that all the students Malisa and I work with would grow a lifelong love of God’s word?
  • Would you pray that for us?
  • Can we pray that for you?

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

#GoodStartBoston (or how not to be #SocialMediaStupid)

#GoodStartBoston

We’re trying new things to reach college students with the gospel. Part of being a missionary is to become a student of the culture of those we’re trying to reach. For me, that means not being #SocialMediaStupid anymore.

I used to think, “College students in Boston think and act like me.” After all, I was a college student in Boston not that long ago. But my freshman year was 21 years ago, and so it’s increasingly clear that there’s a new generation of students on campus.

Let me give you an example:

As the guys stood around eating their big roast beef sandwiches last week, Joel was on his phone snapping the scene.

“Are you snapping our meal?”

“yep”

“OK. Here’s my snap code so you can add me as a friend,” I said.
He looked at my profile for a moment. “51?”

“What’s 51?” I asked.

“That’s the total number of messages you’ve ever sent or received.”

“How many do you have?”

“29,114.”

Clearly, I’ve got some catching up to do!

I’m working to not be #SocialMediaStupid anymore.

Paul talks about becoming all things to all people: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Cor 9:22-23). I think the 2018 version of that for me is that I need to become a digital native to win more college men to the cause of Christ.

Part of my job now includes coaching team leaders across the country and one of the delights is finding leaders who are innovative and creative and then replicating what they’re doing in Boston with students here. No sense reinventing the wheel. My friend Josh and his team in San Diego built a social media campaign to give students a good start to their year.

I took the best of what Josh was doing and invented #GoodStartBoston.

In addition to tagging posts online with #GoodstartBoston, we set up tables to give out Iced Coffee and Lemonade in front of freshmen dorms.

What we said to students: “Here at Cru, we’re all about giving students in Boston a Good Start to their year. That includes recommendations of restaurants near campus [thanks to all of you who made suggestions on facebook, by the way]. It includes giving out free iced coffee and lemonade on campus on hot afternoons. And it also includes the ultimate good start – connecting with a group of followers of Jesus who can help new students on their spiritual journeys.

“In addition to giving you a good start to your school year, we’d like to help give a good start to someone else. So if you fill out our quiz, at the end you’ll get a choice of charities to give a dollar to.”

The response (even from non-Christians) has been rewarding. “I’m so glad you guys are giving to charity instead of giving me some junk that I would throw away anyway. That’s so great.”

You can see what we’ve been working on by following me or Malisa on Instagram @BrianEllis or @MalisaEllis. You can search for #GoodStartBoston and you can go to www.cruboston.com/goodstart to see our “Buzzfeed Quiz.” (though the dollar for charity is only for current students).

Anyway… that’s what I’ve been doing to try to go where the students are, learn a new culture, and try to find ways to give students the Ultimate Good Start (a relationship with Jesus Christ).

Next week, we’ll be pouring hot apple cider and passing out cider donuts to start up some more #GoodStartBoston conversations. We’ll also be inviting students to pile into a bus on Columbus day to go apple picking, eat chili, and make pies.

Want to come with us? If you live in the Boston area, we’d love to have you and your families join us  on October 8 for apple picking or for chili and baking. Let me know if you’re interested.

What about you? What have you done to learn a new culture? Got any tips for me to be more effective in the social media space?

Loving our adventurous Lord,

How to Pray

  • For Joel, Andrew, Andrew, Pieter, Max and all the freshmen guys that we have been connecting with the last few weeks – that they would stick with us
  • For our Fall Retreat this weekend – Over 200 Students from across Boston, many not-yet Christians. That they would have an incredible weekend
  • For our Apple Picking trip on Columbus Day – that many non-Christians would have great gospel conversations with our staff and students.

Join us for a prayer walk

What I love about prayer walks is that they remind me that I have no control of the results in our ministry here in Boston. I can’t change students’ lives for all eternity. Only God can do that. And so we pray.

Going for a prayer walk lets me look around and pray with my eyes open. It lets me pray for much longer without distraction. And as I look around at all the students (and buildings they live and study in), I can focus my prayers on them.

Would you join us this month as the school year starts to pray for Boston? That God would have compassion on this great city like he did for Nineveh? And that thousands of students across the city would hear the gospel in the coming weeks?

Thank you!


Here is our family on a night-time prayer walk in front of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (now part of Tufts University).


Prayer Walk 1: Fenway, Northeastern, and Art Schools

  1. Northeastern: For fast connections with freshmen who are believers and have a heart for the lost | For International students – particularly south Asians (India, etc.) as we seek to launch a new bridges movement to this group | For some undergrad international students who are believers to surface in the first few weeks and that the Lord would build a movement around them | For Athletes that we’re connected to – for relationships to solidify and for the gospel to go out
  2. NEC: For student and faculty connections and creativity to know how to reach this campus with the gospel
  3. Berklee/BoCo: For freshmen who are not just Christians but who are excited to share Christ with their classmates and bandmates
  4. Emerson: That Albany would desire to be connected with other athletes who are walking with Jesus | For the all new group of Cru staff that will be working on campus – that they would move toward making headway especially with a challenging administration | For incoming freshmen – that we would be able to find incoming freshmen quickly
  5. Bonus: Pray for our team as we seek to launch at Roxbury Community College through their activities fair
  6. WIT: For younger student leaders to link arms with Noah, our key upperclassman leader | For a core group of strong believing women.
  7. SMFA: For Sephora, an alum who now works at SMFA, that she would be successful in launching a discussion group on art and faith
  8. Mass Art: For our student leader Jillian as she starts the first small group in 10 years | That her connections with incoming freshmen and new students would be rich and that the gospel would go out in this community
  9. Simmons: Pray for the 6 involved graduate students that they would make inroads in gospel conversations with classmates | for our student leaders – though young they would be deeply connected with Jesus | for continued strong relationships with the administration | for continued connection with Islamic student association and continued opportunities for conversation about Jesus | for epic (Asian American) to have 5 student leaders by end of semester.
  10. Emmanuel: Pray for the newly formed leadership team – 5 student leaders that they would be connected together and bold in sharing the gospel | inroads among those who already think their faith is important, but aren’t connected to community yet


Groups of our staff broke up to cover Boston University in prayer too.

Prayer Walk 2: Boston University

  1. West Campus and Student Leaders: for the freshmen about to move into West – that many would come to know Christ. For our student leaders to be full of faith as they share how Jesus is at work in their life today. That our student leaders would experience spiritual multiplication as they step out in faith to shepherd younger students and make friendships with freshmen
  2. AIA and Valor: For # women athlete leaders to double (from 5-10) by the end of the year. For men on the Lacrosse, Hockey, and XC teams to grow in owning their faith and demonstrating it to other guys on their teams. For our Valor student leaders to pour into a new generation of ROTC cadets and midshipmen.
  3. Launching: This fall, we’re looking to launch new movements for African American students (Impact), around Social Justice issues, to international graduate students. Pray for favor and opportunity in each of these areas. Pray for key relationships to develop (e.g. with student leaders and others in the Howard Thurman Center).
  4. Bridges: Spiritual strength for student leaders. That they would multiply their lives. | That we meet incoming Christian international students who can catch a vision for reaching out to others | For wisdom and favor with Warren & West as we reach out to intl students there | For transfer students in Danielsen & language students in CELOP who are often lonely and disconnected from campus life
  5. Whole campus vision team – for the students and staff who have committed to dreaming about reaching every student on campus with the gospel – that the vision would stay alive and catch on with all our students. We also pray that dozens (actually 27 is our goal) would join us in going to the world this year.
  6. Freshmen: That freshmen would make friends with others in Cru and that many would come to the Fall Retreat.
  7. Warren Towers: For the 1.700 freshmen in this dorm – that the gospel would spread from person to person and that one day, every student would hear about Jesus. That the Cru community as a whole would be a place where people could experience Jesus and that they couldn’t help but falling for him and following Him.
  8. False “gods”: Pray against idols of performance, acceptance, striving, etc. Pray for healing from the anxiety and depression that are on the rise among our students.

Thanks for praying with us!

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

“Lasting friendships. That’s your measure of success.”

“Lasting friendships. That’s your measure of success.”
When we first started doing ministry in the Middle East, that was what our long-term teammates told us.

“For the average person from this country who becomes a follower of Jesus, it’s about 2 and a half years from when they first meet a Christian to when they start following Jesus themselves. So really, it doesn’t matter to us how many people you share the gospel with. But what we do care about is whether you make friends with spiritually interested people here. We measure success like this: At the end of the summer, you’ll leave a note and a gift for your friends. The team that follows you will contact your friend and set up a time to give them your gift. That’ll be the way we can continue building those friendships. And those relationships will be handed off from summer team to long term team and back to summer team. So that each of us can journey together with these friends toward Christ.


Here I am with Mike, one of the students who joined us this summer. I loved getting to meet with him every week. Pray for him as he figures out whether God would have him come back long-term to this city.

“Lasting friendships. That’s your measure of success.”

Malisa and I love that ministry philosophy. We think it transfers really well back to our ministry in Boston and what we’re trusting God for here. And we think this style of ministry will work well for our students for the rest of their lives. Because if they can learn to share the gospel in the context of building spiritual friendships with others around them – classmates, neighbors, co-workers, they can be prepared for a lifetime of fruitful ministry.

And so that’s the ministry you were involved with this summer (by praying and giving). It is a delight for us to get back together with former students that we met years earlier (like this friend “Denise” with Malisa and Kelsey). We built a relationship with her four years ago and another team picked up the relationship after we left.


Now, “Denise” is married, has a baby, and is a professor and so has the potential to influence the next generation. Would you pray for her?


Malisa and some of our students got to have a series of significant conversations with “Görme” this summer. They talked about fasting during Ramadan, why we fast as Christians, who Jesus is, and more. Would you pray for next year’s team? That like the other team did with “Denise,” they would continue befriending “Görme”?

By the numbers:

  • We initiated 276 conversations.
  • We journeyed with 53 new friends.
  • We left gifts for 40 friends to follow up.
  • Each has a story. Would you thank the Lord for each of these friends?

Because you’ve been sending us back to the same location now every couple summers for eight years, we get lots of chances to see how our friends in the Middle East are journeying toward Jesus.

But the same thing happens in Boston – we get to join students on their spiritual journeys for a little window (their time in college) and then send them off to be lifelong laborers for God’s kingdom. Thank you for enabling that work.

Have you ever thought about journeying spiritually with friends at work or neighbors? We’d love to be praying for you. Shoot us an e-mail: brian.ellis@cru.org or malisa.ellis@cru.org

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

 

Prayer Requests:

  • For “Denise” – that she would influence the next generation in her country for Christ
  • For “Gorme” – that next year’s team would become friends with her and point her to Jesus
  • For Mike and others who might return for another year or more to this city
  • For all of our soon to be friends – the thousands of students about to arrive in Boston – that many would walk with Jesus.

She looked up at me with kind, tired eyes

We’ve just got back to Boston after our summer in the Middle East. And, of course, we wish each one of you were there with us in person, to experience some of the amazing ways the Lord moved. The best we can do today is an audio diary. Here’s a short clip of me (Malisa) sharing with our students one morning to help refresh the vision for why we were helping serve our new refugee friends in the Middle East. I wanted our students to see how significant their presence was this summer.

If you’d like to hear the audio of me sharing, send me an e-mail and I’ll send you the password.

She looked up at me with kind, tired eyes as the tea was being passed around the room at the moms and tots program. It was very Afghani: she had darker colored skin but lighter colored eyes. I sat by her and, with a translator, we started talking and I got to hear this women’s story.

“How many kids do you have?” “Ten,” she said, and then opened her purse and pulled out a stack of identification cards, one for each child.  She went on to share that she actually has 13 kids, but 3 of them had died in the war in Afghanistan: an 18-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old were all killed in the war. She started tearing up as she was talking, “I miss them. I miss them so much” she said over and over very slowly.

I started tearing up just thinking about the pain this mother was experiencing after losing 3 kids in Afghanistan.

“Three of my daughters are still in Kabul.  Two are married. One is a veterinarian, one is a dentist, and one is a lawyer. The other seven are here with me.”

“You should be very proud. You raised very strong daughters,” I said, which obviously in that culture is a big thing.

“Yes, I really pushed school so that they could be educated and have a good career but now, my kids cannot go to school.”

“Why not?”  “Well, because they have to work to help pay for living expenses, so they can’t go to school. My older girls have to work because it is so expensive in this city.” She and her kids left Afghanistan because it was a hard and awful life to move to the city which was better for her even as a refugee than it was at home in Kabul.

Almost as a P.S. in our conversation, I found out that her husband was killed in the war in Afghanistan too. She is here in this city by herself with seven kids. I couldn’t absorb any more pain or hard things from her life. My heart was breaking.

The translator got pulled away, but at the end, I said, “Will you be at the picnic?” “Yes,” she said as I pointed to the paper invitation at our table. There are these powerful, really hard stories as we enter in to serve in the refugee program this summer.

I reminded our team of students as we gathered the morning following my time with this dear Afghani woman: “Maybe you are just pouring tea, or building blocks with little kids, or trying to keep them quiet while the bible story is happening. But this is one of the only times this mom gets a break all week long. She comes and just sits, we pour tea, and her kids get both physical and spiritual food. So, as the tea and wafer cookies were offered that morning my new friends passed on the tea but grabbed a huge handful of the wafer cookies. Honestly, I was a little bit surprised at how many she grabbed but she looked shyly at me and then walked over to her children who were sitting on the rug. She didn’t eat any of them. Maybe it was because she was fasting for Ramazan or maybe not. Either way her kids were hungry and so she did what any mom would do and found her children food.”

I think it’s significant just the ministry of being present with our refugee friends even if we don’t get to hear more stories, just literally being present as a team sitting at the table and holding their babies, playing with their kids, and offering a cup of tea. I think it’s a really significant part of what we’re doing in the city this summer.  So that’s the story. I wanted to tell you guys because that’s one of 40 Afghani stories we could tell but this one grabbed my heart.

Will you pray for my friend and her 10 children?   Will you especially pray for her two teenage daughters who are not in school but working in order to help provide for her family’s needs. I met them at the picnic we helped put on – at the face painting station of all places.  I spent a good chunk of time at that picnic painting wild designs on sun kissed skin which meant I was able to hold the faces of these refugee kids and pray that in the midst of all the brokenness in their worlds that the security of Jesus would begin to take root.