Note: This post begins a series of several posts about our upcoming STINT to New Zealand. Stay tuned to hear more details about our family’s Kiwi adventures, along with knowing how you can pray for us as well as the students and staff members we meet.
This is my first post of 2017. The new year is full of promise, hope and adventure. How do I know that this is what 2017 holds? Because we walk with a God of adventure who makes and keeps remarkable promises and offers us hope in every circumstance.
Sometimes God calls us to live outside our comfort zones, trusting Him to step into the unknown. Our family is about to embark on such a mission. From mid-January to the end of April, the six of us, along with another family, are preparing to answer God’s call to go build a Lifelines ministry in the outdoor paradise of New Zealand. Although our departure date of January 19th looms closer, this adventure began years ago.
As Lifelines has expanded over the years, we have often asked the question, “Where to next?” The ministry has grown from one campus to multiple regions with a host of campuses throughout the U.S., and with each new team planted, we have wondered and prayed about the ends of the earth. If God were to send us internationally, where would we go? Who would benefit and where would this ministry flourish?
One of the locations we’ve been praying about for years is New Zealand. We have often heard of the great spiritual need of this country in the South Pacific, that the people are increasingly post-Christian. In fact, more than 86 percent of the population does not attend church, according to Operation World. While Christianity is decreasing, the Kiwi’s love for outdoor adventure continues to thrive, which is why this country presents such a great opportunity for Lifelines.
We have waited for God to provide the right partnership, as well as the manpower. Last year, it became clear that He was opening the door in New Zealand.
In January of 2016, Dan was part of a scouting team that spent twelve days in country. During that time, the Cru country director welcomed us, and the campus ministry team in Dunedin, home of Otago University, requested that we come and train them to develop a Lifelines ministry using the outdoors and experiential learning to reach their students with the Gospel. With 20,000 students from all over New Zealand, the South Pacific, and Asia, Otago is an influential campus and a strategic launching point to much of the Eastern Hemisphere. Located on the southeast coast of the southern island, it is also geographically poised for outdoor adventure.
Our aim, by God’s grace, is to help turn students’ hearts and eyes toward Him, redirecting the wandering, restoring the fallen, and emboldening believers to help offer hope to the lost. Our role in this Kingdom-building effort will be to partner with local staff members to build a Lifelines ministry, equipping them as spiritual guides who use the outdoors as a practice field for introducing and living out Biblical truth. We will teach some technical skills along with how to use experiential learning for ministry, and pass on the vision of Lifelines while helping the Kiwis to adapt the ministry to their culture and scope.
In all of this we are as much learners and servants as we are teachers and vision-casters. We pray for God to open students’ hearts, for our own eyes to be set on Him and for our actions to be led by Him. We have ideas and strategies, but are keenly aware that apart from Him we can do nothing.
We can’t wait to learn more. Through this blog we hope to keep you updated on what God is doing and to take you along on the adventure. Here you can join our teammates, the Lovejoy family, and us as we answer Jesus’ call to leave what we know and follow Him. We covet your prayers and welcome your responses. It is reassuring to know that with you, and with Christ, we will not go alone.
-Heather and Dan Litchfield
Our house sports a new for sale sign out front which I have to admit makes me a bit sad. At the same time I am hopeful and anxious for people to come and see our home. The house is in the best shape it has ever been – even the little projects are finished and it is clean! That alone makes me want to stay. (Grin.) We are living in that middle ground of trying to enjoy every minute we have here and at the same time looking forward and preparing for the future. We are praying for a great family to move in here and that this house will be a blessing to them, just as it has been for us.
Robert Coleman writes, “People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.” Yet what we so often give students today is just the opposite. Jesus on the other hand demonstrated in powerful ways the things he wanted to get across. When he wanted to teach a lesson on faith he placed his disciples in a sinking boat. There he showed the power of the One they were being asked to put their faith in. When it was about love and service, he washed his disciples feet. Jesus often gave his followers hands-on challenges like entering the wilderness where there was no food and telling his disciples’ to feed the crowd. As Lifelines staff, we stand in amazement of the Master of experiential learning and the growth that took place in the lives of those involved. Jesus’ ministry involves adventure! Jesus used it time and time again. He push his followers out of their comfort zones. When we are at the end of ourselves and the edge of the unknown, faith shows up and growth takes place.
God has called Lifelines to champion experiential learning and adventure ministry within Cru. The leadership of Cru has commissioned Lifelines staff to be a group of specialists who will resource the campus ministry globally in this endeavor.
There are four Lifelines Resource team in the U.S. These teams will focus on what Lifelines does best: opening new doors on campus so that campus staff can connect with the lost and helping students and staff grow personally, professionally and spiritually. As the world population moves to the cities Lifelines will need to offer wilderness experiences where students can encounter God away from the distractions of their city campus as well as taking experiential learning to their scope and turf. Through our Lifelines Guide Program we will also train campus staff to use outdoor experiences and experiential learning more effectively on their own. Within the next five years, we are trusting God for 100 trained Lifelines Guides working throughout the world. In order to reach these goals Lifelines will need to do a better job at recruiting and training others. We look forward to offering a yearly outdoor Guide School and more venues for facilitator training outside of our summer missions.
It will be up to Lifelines to provide multiple experiences and opportunities to model and show others how experiential learning and wilderness ministry can be used by God to change lives and make disciples. Wilderness ministry is not just for the U.S. but for the world. God has been using the wilderness to call people to a greater faith for centuries. Wilderness ministry is not expensive but does require training and personnel. Campus Crusade for Christ has laborers around the world with a heart for God; we just need to add technical skills and experience for them to be able to offer some life changing adventures to students from every tongue, tribe and nation.
The adventure awaits!
Noah, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all spent 40 days in the wilderness. God used these times to bring about life changed and dependence on Him. I often will ask students where they feel closest to God. 9 out of 10 will say when they in the outdoors. For me the outdoors is a place where my soul comes alive and I can’t help but worship God in all that I see. For others they might be unconformable and challenging when in the outdoors or wilderness. I have to confess, I have yet to spend 40 days straight living in the outdoors. It is a goal for me and something I look forward to. I have spend quite a few 10 day wilderness experiences with students. I have seen God at work during those times. They are trips that will not be forgotten and often ones where there they have God encounters. Ones where He becomes bigger and the world a little safer.
When you stand on top of a mountain, there is no denying that there must be a God. God has been calling people into the Wilderness throughout history to reveal more of who he is. Dan and Heather Litchfield were two of the four co-founders of “Lifelines”, the outdoor and experiential learning ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. This website/blog has been set up to let you know more about the Litchfield’s ministry and how God is calling people into the wilderness to encounter the Living God.