I have some questions…

This is a story of a man named Jose and a woman named Carmen. Jose and Carmen got married at a young age somewhere in Madrid. They soon started their own family and Carmen gave birth to a beautiful little son named Francisco. Now, Jose and Carmen took Francisco to church every Sunday. Jose and Carmen loved Jesus and raised Francisco going to church and reading the bible, even praying that he would grow up loving Jesus too. Francisco grew up and somewhere in his twenties simply stopped going to church. Francisco eventually married a young woman named Isabella and they soon had two boys of their own – Sergio and Juan. But Sergio and Juan weren’t raised going to church. Every so often they Francisco and Isabella would take their family to church on Easter because their grandparents wanted them to, but that was it. Sergio and Juan eventually grew up, married and had children of their own – both Sergio and Juan and their spouses raised their children outside of the church, and in turn those children did the same. And their children’s children did the same. Now 4 or even 5 generations removed from Jose and Carmen – how much do you think those kids grew up knowing about Jesus?

I think it’s safe to say they’d know nothing, absolutely nothing about Jesus…

And that’s the spiritual climate in Spain today. They are now 4-5 generations removed from families faithfully even going to church – that’s not even to say that they were faithful Jesus followers – just faithful church goers. The numbers for Spain aren’t great. In fact, they’re pretty grim. 1% of Spain is Evangelical Christian. 1%. And only 3% of all Spain even considers religion to be an important part of their lives. Among those 30 and under in Spain – the church has zero influence. ZERO. Add to that the staggering unemployment rate for those 30 and under that fluctuates somewhere between 55% and 60% and you have a recipe for hopelessness.

Talk to almost any young person (30 and under) for a period of time and the same things tend to crop up in conversation. Who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? Where am I going? What am I here for? Questions of meaning and purpose tend to permeate so so many of those conversations that I have with young people everywhere I go. While we were in Spain this past year on our visioning trip we had the opportunity to sit down with young a man named Jorge. Jorge was one of the few who actually grew up in the church. His family actually took him to church as a child. Jorge soon found himself in that awkward transitionary period between high school and university. As he left “youth ministry,” he soon found himself hitting the proverbial “glass ceiling.” His desire to serve and invest in the church was met with a firm – “there’s no place for you” response. This response led him down a long journey of: “well, if there’s no place for me here, perhaps there’s no place for me in the church, and maybe there’s not even place for me in Christianity.” At such a crucial point of his life, a time of searching and trying to discover who he was and who God’s made him to be – he found the church to be a closed and even cold place to engage this season of discovery. As he shared his journey with us you could feel the heartbreak in his voice. He began to look for answers to these life shaping questions everywhere except the church. In fact, he left the church entirely, and still hasn’t really returned.

People like Jorge are the people our hearts break for. The reality is that young people in their twenties are asking questions of faith, value, calling, and of life meaning and are doing it everywhere else – except the church. As we prepare to transition over to ministry in a context devoid of Jesus we are thankful for the opportunity we’ve had to train and learn how to create safe places for young leaders like Jorge to wrestle with those questions and engage those questions at deep and meaningful levels with Jesus always being the aim. We want to see young leaders learn how to do the same with their peers, with their neighbors, with their communities. We desire to see lasting legacies of entire generations following after Jesus pointing those who are to come after them in the same direction.

The truth is that if we, as the Church, don’t provide those safe spaces for young people to ask those tough questions of faith and purpose we’ll continue see entire generations grow up with the same perspective as Jorge. “If there’s no place for me here, maybe there’s no place for me in Christianity.” So how can we provide that space?

Here’s a couple things we’ve learned over the course of this past year:

Recognize that you don’t have to have all the answers – so often young people need a sounding board, a place to process. They don’t simply need the answer to the solution, but rather, need a safe place to process through whatever questions they have, which means I need to ask better questions. In fact most of their lives they’ve been told what to think and believe, helping them process things with the ability to reserve judgment will take you farther and deeper into a relationship than you could know.

Be consistent – investing in young people takes a tremendous amount of patience and faithfulness. Though they are sometimes really flaky, they appreciate someone who is faithful and consistently there for them. Honestly, this takes a lot of humility and grace as it can sometimes be really frustrating when you’re set up for a meeting and they cancel for “that other thing that just came up.” But as I show grace and the ability to be flexible (within reason) it really goes a long way to build trust and a place of safety.

Understand that I don’t have to beat them over the head with Jesus – this is sometimes the hardest thing for me to come to grips with. There’s a difference between pointing one to Jesus and punching them in the face with Jesus. When we’re dealing with life questions it’s important to point people to Jesus and what He says about given life circumstances, but I don’t always have to immediately go there, in fact often times I find it better to be patient and let them connect Jesus to said situation themselves. The reality is that people I engage with almost always already know my heart and passion for Jesus – when I’m patient and let the Spirit lead I find time and time again that Jesus bubbles out of whatever we are talking about, and God opens up the opportunities to engage those “Jesus moments.”

There’s a lot more that could be said on this…but just typing these things reminds me of how I need to be a better listener and my first response should be one of grace, love and truth, especially as I engage my neighbors…

Moving forward I am overwhelmed with excitement as we prepare to be people who provide space for young Spaniards to ask questions of faith, life, and how the two intersect and I pray they meet Jesus! It is our prayer that as we go, as invest ourselves in the lives of young Spaniards that a new generation of Jesus followers would come forth and birth fresh expressions of the Church in Spain that would leave a legacy of many many generations to come of faithful Jesus followers. The reality is that whether we are in Spain or anywhere else for that matter – as Christians our heart is for people to meet Jesus. That they would connect with the Creator of the Universe and understand why He matters to their life. If we can’t be a people who create safe spaces to help our neighbors explore those things we’ve missed a significant opportunity to be salt and light to our world.

Vision Statements and HeArt Projects

Crazy: tonight marks the final night of our apprenticeship here in San Diego. We are no longer apprentices, but now staff members with CRM. This year has been a year of clarity, of joy, and of learning. We have had an entire year to serve and learn alongside of many who have been serving faithfully on mission here in San Diego for a long time. With the end of the apprenticeship brings much excitement that is surely bittersweet as we prepare to launch a new missional community in Spain this new year and leave our community here.

Part of our process as apprentices this year was to begin to build our very own life vision statements. As we prayed for clarity, we journeyed through our past, our giftings, our personality; reflecting on how God has specially shaped each one of us for a specific role in His kingdom. It was an extremely clarifying time that left both Jenifer and I with a greater understanding of how God has shaped us and what our kingdom contribution could be and should be! With that being said I wanted to share those vision statements with you:

Jenifer’s vision statement:
I desire to see lives transformed by the gospel and will affirm and care for women and children as they journey deeper into the presence of God.  I will create friendships that provide calm stability, inviting gentleness, and deep caring.  I will join them in unraveling their gifts, passions, and unique calling so they can create beauty and order in the midst of chaos. Through my unique gifts of breaking down steps, enduring listening, and ordering paths forward I will provide clarity for them to see themselves as a beautiful image bearers of God.

Jeff’s vision statement:

I will clear new trails and create spaces where young leaders can be deeply formed by God’s truth, love and power. I will labor together with these leaders to clear these trails and I will walk side by side with them teaching them to love, trust, hope, live and thrive in their unique callings. I will find others who will go farther, deeper, and harder into the jungles of life than I will ever be able to – I will teach them how to clear paths for others and free them to be sent deeper into the jungle leaving legacies of faithful pioneers to do the same. There will be moments when we come across trails that have been overrun and are in need of being rebuilt, I will make those trails clear again and more fruitful than ever before. There will be parts of the trail that are steeped in darkness and full of danger; though many will want to turn back: I will forge ahead with those whom God provides.

As we reflected on these vision statements, we were struck at the way God has uniquely shaped us and prepared us for ministry in Spain. It is incredible to think that our giftings, our passions, our very lives are being placed squarely in a context where we can put them to use so well. 

One of the final projects we were asked to put together as apprentices was to create a “HeArt Project.” The very premise of this project was to create something that expresses and/or represented what God had done in our hearts over this past year. This was a difficult, time consuming, and such a rewarding process that we wanted to share it with you. Here is how we both felt God worked in our hearts over this past year.

Here’s a picture (let’s just say a picture doesn’t do it justice) of Jenifer’s HeArt Project followed by her artist statement:


Soft Pastels on Paper

This year has been a sweet year of clarity.  I’ve developed a better understanding of how God has created me and how I can be used in the Missio Dei, but what has been most life changing is my ability to discern the voice of God.  What has always been there, used to be fuzzy, dark, and usually realized too late; but now is clear, bright,and radiant . . .luminous.  The morning sunlight covering the nights’ darkness and illuminating a new day was the perfect metaphor for me to describe my understanding of how God speaks to me.  Working with soft pastels was new to me and brought a challenge that was both thrilling and therapeutic.  This medium allowed me to create with creamy rich color while allowing me grace as a new artist.

And here is Jeff’s HeArt Project followed by his artist statement:

Heart Project from Jeff Ott on Vimeo.

“Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”

Stop-Motion Animation

For me stop-motion represents a very child-like art medium. It brings me back to the days of my childhood. There is an innocence and joy in the medium. I remember as a very little child praying “the Lord my soul to keep.” Though I didn’t know what that meant then, God was faithful to answer that prayer. This piece represents years of prayers coming to fruition; prayers I prayed even in my youth that were not forgotten by God. Even though I myself may have forgotten most of the prayers I’ve prayed over those years – God has not forgotten a single thing I’ve asked. God has treasured every little prayer I’ve ever prayed and is still in the process of weaving those fulfillments. That realization has pushed me deeper into trusting in His faithfulness than I ever could have imagined.

We are so thankful for this past year and all that God has done in our lives and through the lives of those around us here in Golden Hill…we look forward with great anticipation to seeing what God will do in us and through us as we serve Him in Malaga, Spain. We have seen over and over again God’s faithfulness shine through in this past year. We are grateful for those who have journeyed with us and look forward to the journey ahead!!