Living Story

Introducing “The Global Immersion Project”

Our Friends Milad, Manar and Neshan who live/serve in the West Bank

Answering our (Jan and I) calling to give a voice to those that don’t have one in Israel & Palestine and our vocation of developing leaders for mission, we are thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Immersion Project.  I co-founded the organization with my good friend and fellow Kingdom cultivator, Jer Swigart.  Our first Learning Community has completed 3+ months of preparation and are prepared to leave for Israel/Palestine later today!  Here is the snap shot intro (or you can just check out our website).

Purpose Statement

Cultivating difference-makers through immersion in global narratives

Mission Statement

Through diverse, global friendship-making, storytelling, and real-time living, the work of The Global Immersion Project is to develop difference-makers into people who tangibly live, love, and lead like Jesus.  We believe in the just impact, locally and globally, that USAmericans can make if we learn to live in the posture of a learner with God, ourselves, each other, and those who inhabit our global village.

What It Looks Like

We aren’t offering a Holy Land tour or even a short term missions trip.  Adopting the posture of the learner, we are offering a four month learning experience that shapes us into people who promote the Just Heart of God in the Way of Jesus.  The first three and half months deep dive us into the historical, theological and modern narratives that allow us to enter the narratives of our friends in Israel & Palestine as intelligent travelers who embody the narrative of Jesus.  Participants commit to navigating the experience in Learning Communities that are facilitated by Jon and Jer both in person and available through an online platform.  Our cultivation takes place in three phases: (1) understanding; (2) exposure & deeper understanding; and (3) resourced integration that is shaped around extenstive reading, documentary viewing, Scriptural exploration and the art of friendship-making.  Our goal is to develop practicing theologians who better engage their local and global village as one’s who live, love and lead like Jesus.  Go to our website for the detailed description, curriculum & theological affirmations that shape this experience.  

How To Participate 

To apply for the experience or to follow along in the real time stories, pictures and video’s from our time navigating the complex realities of Israel/Palestine, jump on board these platforms:

Website: http://theglobalimmersionproject.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/104823116331708

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlobaIImmerse

Jamie Arpin-Ricci Asks Me 5 Critical Q’s On Missional Community

This interview was first published on Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s website The Cost of Community.  It is a great window in the heart and mission of my work and that of NieuCommunites.

Living as part of an intentional Christian community, I often search for other creative expressions of missional communities around the world.  One such example that I love is NieuCommunitiesIt is also how I came to befriend Jon Huckins (who I finally got to meet in person at InHabit this year), who recently authored the great new book, “Thin Places: 6 Postures for Creating & Practicing Missional Community”.

However, rather than me tell you about it, I thought I would let Jon tell us about it directly.  Enjoy!

Jamie Arpin-Ricci: Tell me about NieuCommunities (i.e. some history, current realities & future plans).  How did its story result in the book?

Jon Huckins: Over a decade ago a few seasoned leaders and practitioners started regularly gathering at a local taqueria asking the question, “With the Church radically shifting, how can we create a lived, embodied formation experience that will ready young leaders for lives of mission?”  They wanted to create a “learning experience” that was not purely academic with the intention of filling pulpits, but a learning experience that would fill neighborhoods with leaders whose lives were radically re-oriented around the life and teachings of Jesus. This small tribe of Kingdom cultivators then gave birth to our first NieuCommunities missional community that was centered around forming the next generation of missionally minded leaders for the Church.

After ten years, lots of refining, tons of shared life and many leaders having been sent on mission into the marketplace, around the globe, into church leadership roles and deep into the fabric of their neighborhood, NieuCommunities now has communities scattered across the globe.  While we still pour much of our energy into forming, mentoring and developing young leaders through our 1-2 year apprenticeship, our communities are deeply rooted in neighborhood and are made up of neighbors, apprentices and our staff. Each year we covenant to commune deeply with God, live radically interdependent lives with each other and dive deep into the story(s) of our neighborhood.  We gather in our homes, live within 10 minutes walking distance from each other and don’t aspire to accumulate large numbers of people, but to multiply communities that can follow Jesus by living in covenant relationship.

Over the years many individuals and communities have heard our story and asked for some of our “field notes” from our decade of living neighborhood based, street level missional community.  This book is our response to that.  And while we are far from having all the answers, this is our humble attempt to share our learning’s with the hope of sparking the imagination and practice of individuals and communities across the globe.

JAR: What does “missional community” mean to you?  And why are those two words important to each other?

JH: “Missional” has become quite the buzzword and handy adjective for those seeking to jump on the latest ecclesial bandwagon.  I’m not saying those are inherently bad, but the last thing we need is more talk about missional…we need embodied, lived expressions of the missional way of life that is rooted in community.  I see missional community as two ideas being intimately connected.  It is a collection of people that are committed to living lives of mission (apart of the missio dei) who believe the best way to faithfully live on mission is in the context of intentional community.  Community fuels and gives context to mission and mission gives purpose and identity to the community.

JAR: Briefly outline the 6 postures you introduce in the book.

JH: We want our posture towards God, our community and our neighborhood to be intimately informed by these commitments.  Cloaked in the covering of covenant community, we pilgrimage through each of the following postures as learners and practitioners apprenticing in the way of Jesus:

Listening: We desire to be attuned to God, to self, and to our neighborhood.

Submerging: We desire to embody Jesus in our neighborhood by diving deep into the narratives that are often ignored, misunderstood or without a voice.

Inviting: We desire to grasp the depth of God’s invitation to kingdom life and to become more inviting (and invited!) people while welcoming our neighbors into God’s redemptive story.

Contending: We desire to confront the things that hinder the full expression of the kingdom of God, both spiritual and natural, in our community, among our friends and neighbors, and in our city.

Imagining: We desire to discern God’s intent on our lives and help shape transformational faith communities.

Entrusting: We desire to entrust people to God and to others, celebrate our deeper understanding of God’s call on our lives, and lean confidently into our future.

JAR: Name a few authors/books who have been particularly formative for you & NieuCommunities.  How so?

JH: These books and authors have done well at rooting us deep in the Story of God, while learning from traditions that daily inform our life and practice (namely, Celtic Spirituality).  Further, we will often read these books as a community based on the current posture we are navigating together.

The Celtic Way of Evangelism, George Hunter
Spiritual Direction, Henri Nouwen
Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne
Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Christine Pohl
Jesus and the Victory of God – N.T. Wright
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster
Theology for the Community of God, Stanley Grenz
The Mission of God, Christopher Wright

JAR: What is your biggest concern for the church today and why?

JH: My greatest concern for the Church is that it would loose sight of its vocation of living as a sent people.  The Western Church of the last 100 years as largely turned towards ecclesial models that promote consumption rather than participation.  People often leave/drive from their local contexts to attend a church gathering in a building where a person(s) lead the rest of the congregation in some form of worship and teaching.  The people then drive back to their neighborhoods having received something for themselves.  While this is certainly not all bad and great things have and continue to happen in these contexts, this model has largely debilitated the vocation of the People of God.  In this model it is easy to think that only the “pastor” has been sent to share the Good News of Jesus (which is often viewed synonymously with spoken word rather than lived life), so we are simply to bring people to a service or gathering to hear him/her share.  The Good News is removed from the context of everyday life in our neighborhoods, revolves around a service that requires a vast amount of resources and is something we only hear rather than embody.

We believe we are not only to share the Good News, but embody the Good News.  Jesus extends his vocation of redemption and restoration to humanity to accept and participate in.  When the church simply becomes a place or a commodity, we are greatly debilitated in living out our vocation as sent ones for the benefit of the cosmos.  In other words, whether we are sent across the world or across the street, we are all missionaries.  Until the Church sees its role to multiply Kingdom participants on mission rather than offering goods and services to consumers, the influence and prophetic presence of the Church will be greatly diminished.  Thankfully, there is a Spirit-driven movement afoot that is growing, grass-roots and poised to radically reorient the Church around the life and teachings of Jesus.

JAR: Thanks Jon.

Teenagers, Tragedy and a New Story

I spent this past week living on a small houseboat with bunch of freshman boys on Lake Shasta.  While living in extremely intimate quarters with 70 teenagers (4 houseboats) can be quite intimidating (and odoriferous!), it was not what intimidated me most about this time. 

Having committed to speak for this annual “Houseboats” trip close to 6 months ago, I wasn’t expecting the phone call I got from the youth pastor about a month before the trip was scheduled to start.  When he told me something terrible had happened to one of his students, my mind began to race as I reflected on my years as a youth pastor.  In short, two teenagers had been building sand tunnels during a youth group beach day and the tunnel collapsed with both of them in it.  While one was quickly and safely uncovered, the other was buried so deep that it look around 15 minutes to free him. 

This teenager is one of the core upper class boys in the group and many of the teenagers stood on the beach as they worked to free him.  Without a heartbeat or lung activity, he was flown to Stanford where they were able resuscitate him, but he remains in a coma. 

Listening to the youth pastor share this story nearly brought me to tears and I wondered, “What in the world am I going to have to say to teenagers who are wrestling through such a horrific tragedy?”  From a pastoral perspective, I wondered if my coming to speak was even the best idea.

Two things stood out to me at this point:

  1. The radical bravery of the youth pastor to navigate these rough waters, while shepherding the rest of the teenagers in his youth group.  The level of intimate community that was developing among the teenagers was unbelievable as they gathered to pray for their friend every night for three weeks following the accident. 
  2. This was a story I could relate to on an intimate level.  Sorrow and suffering while remaining faithful to the hopeful Story of God have shaped our lives (Jan and I) for the past two years since the loss of our first child.   

Unlike any other speaking opportunity I’ve had -- and as much as it terrified me to walk into this fragile context -- I knew this was one I had to faithfully step into.  The “speaking” would be secondary to simply coming alongside these teenagers in their pain, questions and potential hope. 

The week was awesome.  We wrestled through the Story of God and the reality that we are called to faithfully live in the way of the Cross (pain, suffering, self-sacrifice), while trusting the reality and hope of the Resurrection (past, present and future).  I honestly shared about our loss and told stories of hope that have been birthed out areas of pain. 

These teenagers were/are INCREDIBLE.  I have rarely seen such a tight knit community who were so adamantly seeking to be faithful to Jesus in light of difficult circumstances.  The boy’s younger brother was on the trip and led the way in maturity and transparency. 

It was honor to share life with this community for 6 days.  And as is often the case, I went in to do the teaching, but in the end, I was the one that was being taught through the lives of these teenagers and their heroic leaders. 

What would these teenagers’ lives look like if they experienced this tragedy outside the context of rich community?  Are our youth ministries creating and embodying atmospheres that are safe for teenagers to wrestle through the most difficult life realities?  

“The Neighborhood Became our Classroom” – Part 1

I was recently praying along side a few other people in our missional community when a picture developed in my mind of what the Good News might look like in our neighborhood.  Trusting that the Holy Spirit is already present and embracing our vocation as mediators between God and humanity (of which Jesus passed on to us when he was resurrected as King of the Kingdom), I could see our band of Jesus followers walking through our neighborhood and each place we entered the Good News was extended and seen.  People were drawn to the Story they could see being lived out in our lives.

Grocery store; Good News.

Park; Good News.

Half way homes; Good News.

Refugee community; Good News.

Liquor store; Good News.

Back ally’s; Good News.

The Good News was spreading like a holy virus in our community through the hands and feet of those Jesus’ called to take up their cross and follow.

In this context, what does it mean to follow?  If the Good News is truly good news, shouldn’t our greatest desire be to share this Good News (through word and deed) to those we live among; our neighbors?

For this picture to be made real, it required that we be present in these contexts.  Not to only pray for these people and places, but to walk alongside them.

So often we get in our cars and drive away to go “do ministry” somewhere else (I’m looking at myself), when our neighborhood is in desperate need of healing and reconciliation.

It’s not about going somewhere else; it’s about being present right here.  It’s not about going farther; it’s about going deeper.

My friend Mark Scandrette and his family live in the Mission district of San Francisco.  He recently said,  “When we moved to the Mission, the neighborhood became our classroom.”

To advocate for God’s Shalom (peace, salvation, healing, reconciliation); to be the Good News, we have to also know the bad news of our neighborhood.  We have to know what stands in the way of Shalom (chaos, desperation, brokenness, pain).

I think of Paul having conversations with religious leaders and local business people while walking the streets of Athens in Acts 17.  He engaged in hands on study of his context before speaking into their story.

As a faith community commitment to submerge deep into our neighborhood (Golden Hill) with the hope of Jesus and his plans for renewal, we (NieuCommunities) have turned our neighborhood into our classroom.  Through study in our local libraries, interviews with long standing citizens, engaging local business owners and joining neighborhood councils, we are starting to get a glimpse of how to engage the story of Golden Hill with the redemptive Story of God.

As followers of Jesus who have joined in God’s Mission, we aren’t always going to be called to go far, but we are always called to submerge deep.  We are all missionaries in our own context.

So what does this look like and where might it lead?  Have you made yourself a student to your neighborhood?

I will unpack some of the tangible realities through the telling of a couple recent stories in “Part 2” on Friday.

 

Video Book Trailer #3: The Philosophy of Storytelling

So why should we teach through story? We live a culture saturated by stories. We all live unique stories. In an environment where polarizing rhetoric often tears apart the unifying stories of humanity, teaching through story has the ability to transcend the rhetoric and invite others into God’s Story. Further, storytelling creates a medium for students to not simply hear a message, but to imagine themselves as part of the story

My book is currently available in Kindle form on Amazon.com.

It releases in paperback next month and is available for pre-order in the Youth Specialities Store.

As I continue to walk faithfully forward in writing, I feel called to serve the global Church and give a voice to the stories that are often forgotten.  It is a clear reality that I can’t be faithful in sharing and advocating through my writing without the support of others.  I need your partnership.

Here are two very simple ways:

1. Click here to “Like” my Facebook “Jon Huckins Writing” page.  This platform will focus solely on my writing.

2. Share this blog and/or share the book trailer video. Here is a link to the YouTube Channel with all the videos.

 

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