Long hours have been spent preparing musically, logistically, and spiritually. Each team has learned new music in the native language of their partner country. They have also spent time refining their testimonies for sharing through a translator. Now the week culminates with flight packing and an evening commissioning service.
(There are a lot of posts that have been put up on the site chronicling the Round 2 team's debriefing day. There's posts about each team's oral debriefing, when a lot of the staff members were able to enjoy hearing stories from teams Guatemala, Singapore, and Honduras. In addition, there's a post that highlights the rapid fire bits of encouragement each team member had for the new fulltime teams. It should be noted that there is no way these posts could fully relay all that the teams shared, much less all that God did in the lives of the team members, but we have an opportunity to be faithful with what we've been given. I hope you enjoy this post [and the many others throughout the site] as much as I enjoyed being a part of this work.)
Perhaps the most emotional part of the day of debriefing for summer teams is their final concert. With only hours left as sovereign teams, they take the stage one last time to have fun, rock out, and, most importantly, share from their experience some of the truths God has showed them. Much like the summer teams before them, they will also use this concert as a means of passing the torch onto the next group of teams. In this case, the new teams are this year's fulltime teams (CTI 14:21 and CTI 14:22). There is something to be said for ending well. Part of what that involves here at CTI is showcasing the experiences we've had in such a way that it directs all the glory to the One who is truly worthy of it. Furthermore, as the new teams look on, we do everything we can to encourage them using those experiences to highlight God's unending faithfulness. So, with all of that said, allow me to walk you through the Round 2 Final Concert...
Team Guatemala opened the night and kept things upbeat to start. During their set, Victor, the team's sound tech, shared a bit of the faith journey that has been his life for the past two months. He talked about how going into this experience he was very unsure of himself and his faith. He struggled with a lot of questions and didn't feel like God was near Him. Consequently, he began to have a lot of doubts. It's hard for him to pinpoint an exact moment, but throughout training and while overseas he noticed something changed. As Victor put it, he didn't really get answers. Rather, God changed his heart while he was in Guatemala. His faith was saved through this. The excitement on his face only amplified his message as he closed by pointing out that though we come looking to serve and minister to those around us, we will find that a lot of the time we are served and ministered to. As we go forward, we must keep that in mind so that we can be aware to how God is working in us through the experience and the people we meet. He truly is capable of so much more than we could ever imagine
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Following Team Guatemala was Team Honduras. They kept their portion very upbeat as well as the team shared how they experienced the love of God through the people in Honduras and how they learned that God is enough, in every circumstance (Philippians 4:12-13). In particular, Matt shared a story about how he struggled with the work they were doing. His expectation of seeing a lot of people come to believe and recieve Jesus didn't come to fruition. Because of this, he began to think that his team was failing at the Great Commission. One night after a concert, a young man came up to Matt and began talking to him. Through a translator, he learned that this man was driving home from work and, upon hearing the music, decided to stop and see what was happening. As it turns out, this man, Ricardo, was a new Christian and he wanted them to know that he was very encouraged through what they shared that night. In particular, he was encouraged by the fact that God continues to take us back even though we keep stumbling. Through all of this, Matt realized how much higher and better the LORD's plans are than ours. His encouragement to the new fulltime teams was this: don't be discouraged when your expectations don't follow through. What God is doing is far greater.
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."
Finally, Team Singapore took the stage to close out the night. They did everything they could to amplify the fact that all that we do is for God's glory. Chris shared about how the team was faced with ministry that didn't look like they anticipated it would and Jenna pointed out times the team was uncomfortable in what they were being asked to do. What the team began to realize was that their discomfort didn't matter and that everything they did was to be done to further give glory to God. During the last half of their set the team presented the Gospel, using everything their musical and mental abilities could muster to proclaim what God has done to redeem His creation. Micaela pointed out that without Christ, we are nothing and have no hope. We are completely dependent upon Him for everything we have or could hope for. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed and now have a right standing with God. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 points this out in that those who have been redeemed should not live for themselves, but for the One who redeemed them. We have been made right with God, by God. This is nothing we were able to do, it is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). We had no hope or ability to fix our problem. No, this was all God's doing through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Following that thought, the team closed with 4 passages back to back:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the Salvation of everyone who believes...
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
--1 John 4:10
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
If this message is true, and we profess that it is, it is the most imporant message that can ever be shared. In fact, the nature of this message makes it so important, we can't afford to hold it in. Allow me to write those verses out again, this time without any sort of pause: For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
One last note about this message: If you are someone who is wrestling with all of this and wondering about this wonder that we call the Gospel, hear this--from the beginning, God had it in mind to redeem His creation. He did this, not for us, but the sake of His name and His glory. Our struggle is that we have this void that nothing in this world can fill because we are separated from God, the only One who can truly satisfy. To heal that separation, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word, to be a light in the darkness that is this world, so that those who did believe in and recieve Him could be called children of God (John 1:1-14). This was a promise He made long ago, and our God keeps His promises. He loves you with a love that is truly unconditional. There is nothing you can do that can cause Him to love you more or less. For our biggest problem is and always has been that we are separated from God. Well, no longer. Now we have been made right with God and because of Jesus's sacrifice, His death on a cross and resurrection, we can approach God with all we need and know we will not be turned away (Hebrews 4:14-16). Everything has been done that was needed. All that we must do now is accept that gift...do that. Once you belong to Him, absolutely nothing can separate you again from His love.
"...you are my witnesses, O Israel!" says the LORD. "You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God--there never has been, and there never will be. I, yes I, am the LORD, and there is no other Savior. First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign God has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God," says the LORD. "From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done."
All hail Redeemer, hail, for He has died for me. His grace and glory shall not fail, throughout eternity...
During the summer debriefing days, teams spend the first half of the day sharing stories for the staff. For the later half of the day, the next group of teams, whoever they may be, join in on the fun and become a part of and at times the primary audience. In addition to the new teams being brought in for the Public Q&A and Final Concert, the public is free to join as well. During these times, the teams who have just returned begin taking questions, giving answers from their experience. Lastly, they put on their final concert, the final thing they will do as the teams they have been for the past 6 weeks.
One really fun part of the afternoon comes at the end of the Public Q&A. With around 10 minutes left, Chris Reed has both the new teams who have recently arrived and the current teams who are finishing their time stand. Then he opens the floor for the team members who are at the end of their time with CTI to give a short piece of encouragment to the teams who are just starting. For the Round 1 teams back in July, they did this for the teams that just returned this week. The other night, Teams Guatemala, Honduras, and Singapore were able to give that last piece of encouragement to the new fulltime teams. It goes really fast, so the bullet point form is actually indicative of the nature of this time. Just soak it in and imagine hearing this from people who have gone before you in this kind of experience...
--Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Seek to glorify God above all else.
--The Gospel is worth it.
--God's work, His ministry, is not going to be limited by anything we think it should look like.
--Resolve to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
--God will equip you when He calls you to do His work.
--Be intentionally malleable.
--As long as you are faithful, God will use that for His glory.
--Trust that God has you exactly where you should be.
--Every interaction you have can be used to glorify God.
--Count your blessings. Enjoy the little things.
--Don't be discouraged by a bad day.
--Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances... (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
--The LORD will uphold you through all circumstances.
--God calls you to be sowers and waterers. He is the one who grows.
--Even when we are faithless, He is faithful. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
--Should you begin to feel lukewarm, keep in the Word, and you will acquire a thirst for it.
--Make love your motivation.
--When you are weak, He will give you strength.
--Always praise God...always.
--Isaiah 40:29-31 -- He gives strength to the weak and power to the powerless...those who trust in the LORD shall renew their strength.
--Always share the Gospel. You'd have to hate someone to not actually share it with them.
--Though you may not see the bigger picture, continue to be faithful.
--No matter what nationality, language, or denomination, we are all united in Christ.
--But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
--Nothing can separate you from God's love. Because of that truth, be bold and relentlessly share the Gospel.
--Don't be afraid to go all in because of a fear of making mistakes.
--The joy of the LORD is your strength
--It's not about your fulfillment, but God's glory.
--Your identity is in Christ, nowhere else.