The Worth of Christ

This semester in Campus Outreach at Virginia Tech, we’ve been going through a series called “One Movement”. Essentially, we’ve looked at the Bible as one story of God’s redemption for his people throughout history.

The video below is my message concluding the “Tipping Point,” where Christ made the message of salvation known and the apostles began to spread it. While the church grew exponentially, they were met with opposition.

How they responded showed the worth of the message, and the worth of Christ himself!

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Part One: Don’t Worry, Have Fun

Russians have few reservations about anything. They just jump in and have fun, which is very different in American culture.

The first day we got to camp, we started playing some games, singing some songs and dancing. In an American camp, you would be lucky to get 50% participation in some of those activities, especially on the first day. And it wouldn’t be passionate.

But Russians just jumped in and enjoyed it! “Russians just like to have fun,” one of the students said. “We just do it.”

We taught them how to do the Cupid Shuffle, a very popular line dance, and we were just going to show them in front of the group. We didn’t expect them to jump in.

One minute into the song, everyone in the room was cramped onto the stage doing the Cupid Shuffle together. They were dancing, smiling and laughing. They didn’t care if they weren’t good dancers or if they looked silly. They just had fun without reservations. Don’t Worry. Have Fun.

Students dancing outside during free time.

Students dancing outside during free time.

During free time one day, we got a big futbol game together and almost the whole camp was involved. There were over 20 players and almost 20 people watching. It was pretty incredible to see the unity, especially during an event that wasn’t organized. This sort of unity would seldom happen in America when you can choose what to do.

We put on some basketball jerseys that they brought, some almost too tight to wear others hanging down to our knees. But it didn’t matter. We just wanted to play.

Throughout the game, people stayed involved and the fans kept cheering. Even though the quality of futbol wasn’t great, the students were full of passion, energy and fun. It didn’t matter if they were good or not.

Our group playing volleyball on another free day.

Our group playing volleyball on another free day.

But by far the most surprising thing was our skits. I’ve been in camps or school activities where we have to do skits. It never ends well. It’s awkward, nobody wants to get involved and everyone just acts like they’re too cool to do anything. But really, they’re afraid to look silly or to be the kid that likes drama.

It wasn’t the case with my skit group. Everyone was involved and added value to the skit. We had dancers, singers, actors, mimes, videographers — the talent was unmatched by any group I’ve ever been a part of.

The result was a wonderful performance about a puddle who wanted to become an ocean. We included the audience, added humor, used jokes from camp, made a creative storyline and even wrote an original song. I was so proud of my group, their creative genius and their willingness to be involved. They weren’t worried. They had fun!

Our skit group gathered together for a selfie.

Our skit group gathered together for a selfie.

So many things that we did this week wouldn’t have been possible in America. It wouldn’t have been successful. It wouldn’t have been as fun. It reminded me that our preoccupation with our reputation and what people think about us so often cripples us and robs our joy.

We made the camp theme “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but the Russians lived it out.

Because silly group pictures are just so much more fun!

Because silly group pictures are just so much more fun!

Travel Haze for Dayz

We were told the plane ride was going to be long, the longest one I’ve ever taken. But I’m used to travel. I’ve never gotten jet lag before. I’ll be fine, I thought.

A full 24 hours later (counting the 8-hour time difference in Moscow) without sleep and I’m passed out on the airport floor. No shame. My body literally couldn’t take it anymore, as much as I tried. It was 2:30 p.m. Moscow time, but since it was only 6:30 a.m. EST I had successfully pulled an all-nighter. I swore I wouldn’t do another one of these after I graduated. Whoops!

I knew it was the start to a surreal day when we board the plane, everything is in Russian and we experience sunset and sunrise within a 4-hour time window. Yup, that’s what happens when your flight pattern crosses Greenland.

Can't remember if this is sunrise or sunset...

Can’t remember if this is sunrise or sunset…

I mean, what’s real anymore when sunset is sunrise, afternoon is morning and breakfast is dinner?

Being disoriented, tired and unable to read any of the signs because is Cyrillic made our fellowship time more real. With an 8-hour layover, we decided to take a little adventure into the city. “We’re going on an adventure!” exclaimed Brandon, quoting Bilbo Baggins.

We toured the city on foot, got turned away from a Burger King and ate at an Italian restaurant attempting to order in Russian.

Nathan and I in front of a Moscow Cathedral.

Nathan and I in front of a Moscow Cathedral.

An example of the rich architecture that floods the streets of Moscow.

An example of the rich architecture that floods the streets of Moscow.

By the time we boarded the train back, we were trying to practice our Russian together. “Pazhalsta?” “PAZHALSTA!” The all-purpose word that means “Please” “You’re Welcome” “I’m Sorry” and “Excuse Me”. We just kept shouting it at each other and laughing our faces off. I would blame it on the sleep deprivation but we’re still laughing about it 36 hours later.

By the time we finally got to Orenburg, we met our host family and some of the other church members. Tired and worn, we greeted the people we will be working with for the next 2 weeks. A muffled “Privet” is about all we could muster.

Yet despite all the struggles and laughter and lack of sleep, it was the very uncomfortable situation that brought the foundation to our new relationships. I’ll take the two-day daze for a two-week fun-filled adventure!

Our team hanging out in the airport...before all the flights!

Our team hanging out in the airport…before all the flights!