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Here We Are Now…

We are back on the road, and this time on our final tour! Honestly, it has not sunken in yet. Yet I also acknowledge that all of us have experienced so much together, and through this, we have built unity as a team! As we continue into this next tour, it is my hope that this process of growing together does not end. However, this is not something that we cannot do half heartedly, and I have learned this through my last few months on tour.

As I think back on this last year, I now realize how important intentionality has been. I can honestly say that I have grown the most as a person through intentional relationships. This sometimes meant getting out of my comfort zone to interact with people or having someone else initiate a conversation with me. Also, when we addressed team conflicts directly and worked to resolve them, unity increased. However, intentionality did not just involve relationships with people. It directly (and most importantly) involved my relationship with God! One of the ways I grew the most was through intentionally spending time reading God’s word and learning more about Him. Although this was a struggle for me at the beginning of the year, investing in my relationship with God was probably the best decision I made these last few months!

So, how does this apply to this tour? Well, we are nearing the end, and during this time it will be easy to check out. Since this is a short tour, I could easily treat it like finals week in college and breeze through it. However, based on what I have learned from the last few tours, this would not be a good idea. My prayer is that during this time I won’t take these last few weeks with my team for granted. There is still so much more to learn, so many more relationships to form, and so many opportunities to grow in my faith! After all, this is the point of CTI: to disciple us in a way that we can participate in intentional ministry. It isn’t over yet, and I don’t want it to end here! Therefore, this is my hope for the whole team: to not forget the importance of intentionality in these last three weeks.

It’s Been Awhile

One more venue tonight and we officially finish winter tour!  It’s been really fun, challenging, and rewarding in ways I didn’t expect.  Next week we go home for Easter break, and then it’s one more tour around the eastern Midwest before we’re done traveling as CTI 1421.  It’s pretty cool to look back at my journey with CTI, and realize how much I’ve learned and grown.  So for this blog I wanted to give you a look into that journey, and how I got started with CTI…

In 2014, my junior year of high school, I was sitting on my couch praying/complaining to God that I was bored and wanted to get out of my town, and see the world, while doing something useful involving ministry.  God had been growing a passion for music in me, and so, on a whim, I googled ‘international music ministries’.  And that’s where it all began for me.  I found CTI that night and immediately felt a burning curiosity.  About a month later, I auditioned and applied, and in the next two weeks I was committed to a summer team headed to Singapore!

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.  -Philemon 6

The first day of training in Willmar, MN, I was absolutely terrified and scared of pretty much everyone in the CTI community.  As time went on, I grew a little more comfortable and said maybe like five or six words one day. 😉  But throughout the trip, my view of ministry expanded, and I saw people living out their faith with a confidence and strength that I wanted.  Experiencing a summer trip opened my eyes to my need for God grace even more, and encouraged me to seek out ways to serve.  God used CTI to disciple me, and equip me with a deeper passion and understanding of faith and ministry.

I went home that summer and during my senior year, I felt this kind of pulling on my heart to continue in music ministry.  After lots of praying, I committed to be on another summer team, this time going to Taiwan.  That trip was awesome in different ways, a lot of fun and a great team.  My leaders were great examples of how to live in God’s grace, and push forward with strength and confidence through patience and love.  They might not even know it, but their influence and intentionality in my life is one of the bigger reasons why I’m still involved in CTI.

They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples.  Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.  “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.  -Acts 14:21-22

I went to college that fall, but I knew my time with CTI still wasn’t over.  I don’t really know how to explain it, it was just this weird confidence that God wasn’t done using CTI in my life.  I didn’t have a good experience with college, so before my first semester was over, I committed to CTI’s fulltime program.  I moved home for the summer, and sort of freaked out and didn’t feel ready or good enough to travel around North America, sharing the gospel through music.  But God remained faithful, and here we are now, thirteen weeks into our fourth tour!

I don’t know what comes next.  I don’t know exactly what will happen after CTI, but if I learned anything from my time here, it’s that you can serve wherever you are.  Jesus calls us to go out and make disciples of ALL nations.  Not only when you’re on a mission trip, not only when you’re with other Christians, but to have faith that God will use you to make his name known to the people around you right now.  So whether you’re out there actively seeking ways to serve, or a steady Sunday morning church goer, I challenge you to step out in faith and just do something.  Be reckless.  And if you’re considering joining one of the programs at CTI, talk to us!  This is one of the coolest ministries I’ve been a part of, and I don’t regret joining one bit.  God can use your music for something bigger than you can imagine, and He could be calling you to trust Him to use CTI as a vehicle for that.  But wherever you’re at in life, I pray that you would use your influence to encourage believers, and share the truth of the gospel every day.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  -Phil. 3:7-9

Six Questions with CTI 14:21

Well, here we are now, just a scant few days away from the end of Winter Tour. God has been so good, and has provided more than we could have ever imagined for this mission He’s called us to. It would be easy to just look past this final weekend and revel in the thought of Easter Break, but our goal is to remain intentional – we are still ministers of the Gospel wherever we go, no matter what we’re doing, and we cannot afford to poorly steward opportunities to faithfully witness and share the Gospel.

It’s been a long tour, and there has been a great amount of growth in and through the team, and a wealth of experience gained from our travels and our ministry. With just a little bit of time left before Easter, I figured you might want to hear from the team, what we’ve been learning, and what we’ve really enjoyed! So, without further ado, here’s a few questions for the team:

What was your highlight of this final month of Winter Tour?


Bradley: I can’t exactly pin point a moment that was the highlight of this month, but my favorite thing about this tour has to have been host homing. All of our hosts have been incredibly gracious to us, and have made us feel a part of the family in every place we stay. I cannot be more thankful for the time and energy that they have put into housing us, feeding us, and fellowshipping with us. It’s been a pleasure getting to meet so many people with different thoughts and ideas, and to learn about these people, the lives they’ve lived, and the ways God has worked in and through them. Truly an incredible experience. So to anyone who has hosted us this entire year, THANK YOU!

Brendan: Outside of rejoining my team in early March, I’d have to say that I really enjoyed our time with the Burdicks (Hillary’s family). They hosted us both in Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we got to spend tons of time with them and be encouraged by them continually. We also got the chance to minister from stage at Hillary’s home church in Cheyenne, and it was awesome to share stories from the road and be preachers of the Gospel to challenge and encourage that community!

David: My highlight of winter tour was driving into Medford, OR.  It might be my favorite place I have ever been.

Hillary: I would say, honestly, getting to introduce my team to family and home church. Basically both of my families got to meet each other, my CTI family and my actual family!

Isaiah: Brendan Lane joining us on tour again.

Kim: Meridian, ID.  We got to play for Valley Life Community Church’s Sunday morning service, and youth group.  In between sets, our hosts took us shooting.  It was really fun to have a lot in common with them, and encourage one another in the truth of the gospel.

Maddie: Earlier this month, we got to spend time with the Chinese For Christ Christian Fellowship at UC Berkeley and California. This whole month has been awesome and filled with ministry opportunities, but getting to be in community with Christians my age, spend time studying God’s word, and making friends in Berkeley was a very happy time. 🙂

What is your favorite place to stop and eat on the road?


Bradley: Chick-Fil-A is always a solid choice. We’ve only gone a few times, but those few times have been glorious ones.

Brendan: We haven’t been there in a while, but Culver’s is delicious, and we can usually snag a big enough table/booth to fit us all. It’s also super comforting, and I think it’s because it was our first road lunch stop of the year.

David: My favorite place to stop and eat while on the road was each time we got to go to a taco truck!  It’s tough to beat some good tacos.

Hillary: I loved eating street tacos in Arizona! However, In ‘N Out Burger was a close second. 🙂

Isaiah: On this tour it was the taco truck. BEST TACOS I’VE EVER HAD!!!! 😍😍🌮🌮🌯🌯

Kim: In San Diego, Bradley’s parents took us to a little place on Pacific Beach, and I had one of the best burgers of my life.  And I got tan.

Maddie: In-N-Out. Hands down. If there’s an In-N-Out around, you should probably go, because you know you’re not gonna be in In-N-Out territory forever, and that’s just the way it is.

What is a favorite lyric/line from your rep, and why does it feel important or significant?


Bradley: In Thank You Jesus For The Cross, there’s a line that says For me to live is Christ”. This line speaks so much to the fact that Jesus is the only source of salvation. Christ is the only way to true life.

Brendan: “Let Your will be done in me / let Your kingdom come in me / in my life, Lord, let it be as it is in heaven” – As It Is In Heaven, Phil Wickham

This song, throughout its verses, talks a lot about surrender to God. There are so many great lyrics throughout this song – a plea for our hearts to be temples enthroning God, a declaration that we are like battle-weary soldiers lifting up absolutely everything to God, and a desire to lay down everything and be servants of the most high God, among others – but I feel that the chorus just encapsulates this response of surrender so beautifully and prayerfully. It’s a chorus that I myself try to pray through – asking that God’s will, not mine, be done in my life.

David: One of my favorite lines from our rep is “everything that has breath praise the Lord”. Our God is so worthy of praise that if we don’t even the rocks, with no breath, will cry out. The opportunity to glorify Him is such a blessing and joining together to praise Him is POWERFUL!

Hillary: “When the lies speak louder than the truth, remind me I belong to You” from “Sons and Daughters”. This relates a lot to my struggle with my identity. When the world tries to tell me I’m not good enough, I can remember that my identity in Christ and in the fact that I  am His child.

Isaiah: “Come meet this motley crew of misfits, these liars and these thieves. There’s no one unwelcome here” To me it’s important because it talks about it doesn’t matter how broken you are or how many times you have messed up. It doesn’t matter how you look or dress. You are always welcome in the Lord’s house. He will always love you unconditionally.

Kim: There’s a line in Gift of God that says, “who could bring me back to you but Jesus, he’s faithful and true”, and “it’s the gift of God that I know my salvation by name.”  I love those lines because we were dead in our sin, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the only way we could be forgiven.  And it doesn’t stop there, God continually pursues a relationship with each and every one of us.  It’s a gift that we know our salvation by name, Jesus, and can live through His power.

Maddie: unnumbered souls are dying / and pass into the night/ / we go to all the world / with kingdom hope unfurled / no other name has power to save / but Jesus Christ the Lord

I know it’s a fairly negative line, but for me it’s been an incredible CHARGE placed on us to go share the gospel. Not because we have something of ourselves to proclaim, but a message that abolishes condemnation and death. And the truth is people are dying without hearing this message, so truly, we must go. This message is urgent and it is necessary, and it is alive in us because of Jesus Christ!

We as a team love games, and have some great bonding experiences over board or card games. What’s been your favourite to play with the team on the road?


Bradley: Definitely Ticket to Ride. We don’t play it often, but when we do, I usually win 😉.

Brendan: In Bothell, Washington, the guys and I played a game called Escape, which was a cooperative game all about escaping collapsing ruins. It’s frantic, chaotic, and there’s an ominous soundtrack that plays in the background letting you know when you lose. It took us several attempts to win the game, and when we did, we were all wound up and had noticeably higher heart rates. It was pretty rad.

David: My favorite game to play as a team was probably Escape. it’s a coop game where you all try to escape from a temple and in a certain amount of time, and there is a great sound track that goes with it.

Hillary: I would say Shang Hai is my favorite card game, and Code Names is my favorite board game!

Isaiah: Shanghai

Kim: We’ve been playing this game called Codenames a lot recently.  It’s a great game, but a big thinking one.  We split up into two teams, and most people like to sit there and think and process things, and they usually end up winning, but see, I’m too impatient to think for too long, I get antsy and just start guessing stuff.  Sometimes it works out!  But I’m not so sure my team always appreciates it. 😉

Maddie: Okay, so the logical thinking games are super hard for me to get on board with (haha) but I’m usually down for any game that involves being social, so like, Codenames is a solid game, and we’ve gotten pretty good at reading eachothers minds since living on the road together. But Bang (it’s like mafia, with a wild west twist and cards–also, I bought it in Hong Kong, so it’s in Italian and Chinese) is SUPER fun, and I’ve loved getting to show it to the team this year. 🙂

What’s a verse or passage that’s really stuck out to you during recent devotional times?


Bradley: The very first verse of 1 John, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. One of our songs, Sons & Daughters, bases one of it’s verses after this section. It tells us that we can identify as God’s children because of the sanctification we’ve received through the cross.

Brendan: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn and live.” – Ezekiel 18:30-32

God is a God of justice and mercy. We’ve been reading through some of the prophets recently – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel – and His sense of justice is definitely more prominent. Much of these books dwells on the absolute, sinful depravity of Israel (and its surrounding nations) and the righteous judgment that God will wreak upon them. It tends to be pretty grim reading, but I really loved this passage in Ezekiel that reminded me of His mercy as well. He is holy and righteous, and must execute justice on the sinful. But He’s also so, so merciful. He pleads with Israel to turn from their sin and live, to repent and renew their heart and spirit.

This is the nation that’s rebelled against Him and fallen into complete depravity! They deserve no mercy, and yet He extends it to them. So it is with us, broken sinners who deserve wrath and yet have been extended mercy by a just and merciful God. How amazing God is!

David: A verse that has really stuck out to me is II Timothy 4:2.  It relates to what we are doing so well and inspires me to press on towards the goal of ministering to others whenever possible.

Hillary: Here is a verse I read recently. Ephesians 4:1-3 “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” This has been a good reminder for me as I live day to day with my team.

Isaiah: Matthew 5:43-48

Kim: The whole book of 1 John

Maddie: I’ve been making a point for myself these past few weeks to read the book of Romans all at once, several times a week. The thing that has stuck out to me the most is the weight of mercy shown to us. I think sometimes, when I mess up, I think it’s because I’m now less worthy of grace than I was before. The truth is, though, we will never be worthy of grace. That’s what makes it a gift. That’s what makes it profound and unlike any other love.

Romans 3:11-12 says: No one is righteous, no, not one: no understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless’ no one does good,  not even one. 
 
So if not one of us is righteous, and no one does good, how all the more perfect and lovely is the love that Jesus Christ has shown us the cross? How all the more good? Not one is righteous, but in the same way there is not one like God. He is the only way, and He is the perfect way.

Finally, what would you say to anyone thinking about applying for a Summer team?


Bradley: DO IT! I can not stress enough how much the overseas portion of my tour has shaped my attitude going forward. My relationship with God grows every time I say yes to him. If you are feeling called to overseas missions, with CTI or without, I urge you to answer with a resounding, “Here, I am Lord. Send me.” Now let me say, you will struggle. You will be greatly challenged. You may get to the end of yourself, but it will be so, so worth it. I promise.

Brendan: Doing a summer team in 2015 was a huge reason that I’m still involved with the ministry on a fulltime team right now! I definitely went into the program thinking that it would be all about using music for missions work, and while that’s definitely the case, I was so blessed by the focus on discipleship and Gospel sharing, by which I developed a more missional mindset that I was able to take beyond the scope of the summer program. If you’ve prayerfully considered the opportunity and feel God calling you, then go for it!

David: For those of you thinking about a summer team, if you are seeking for God to work in your life, this is a great opportunity to serve.  Serving God helps us to learn more about Him and how to serve Him more fully, and spending 6 weeks this summer with CTI is a great way to disconnect from the world and connect to God’s will for your life.

Hillary: It will not be easy or fun, but it will be good! Through my experience, I have grown a lot in my faith, but it has only been through my difficult experiences that I have actually been able to grow. CTI is not a walk in the park. However, joining it is the best decision I have ever made!

Isaiah: Do it! I personally haven’t done a summer team but I’ve met many people who have and I’ve seen how it works in their lives. Plus personally with the full-time program I have not regretted for a second. It has been such an amazing experience seeing how God works through people. And being given the opportunity to go to a foreign country to spread the Gospel was an extremely humbling experience.

Kim: If you’re thinking about joining a summer team, DO IT.  It could very well be the most growing, challenging, and coolest trip you’ll get to be a part of.  I’ve had the privilege of being on two summer teams, and it equipped me with a mindset of servanthood, and a greater passion to live out the Great Commission in everyday life.  Going overseas is not easy, but serving through music is pretty dang cool and fun.  It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a musician with a heart willing to serve, I highly recommend joining us this summer!

Maddie: As Paul Vasilko says, “You will never regret saying ‘no’ to yourself and ‘yes’ to Jesus.” and I think that’s true. If you feel like God is calling you to give up six weeks to share the gospel in this way, then I encourage and challenge you to say yes. Even still, God is so faithful to use experiences in which we serve Him to grow us and make us more like Him. And that’s pretty great.

And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed hearing from the team. Please continue to pray for us as we embark on our last few days of tour, and for our supporters back home, we’ll see you soon!

There’s No Place Like Home

In the spirit of us being in Kansas for the past few days, it only seemed appropriate that I titled my final blog post of tour this way.

It’s been a long tour. We’re on week thirteen; we’ve been to 15 states and have been to 43 out 46 scheduled venues–and I’ll be honest–I’m pretty tired, and I can find myself desiring to go home. Sometimes, home is Minnesota, sometimes it’s California, but mostly, I like to pretend home is wherever I say it is.

I think we spend a lot of time building our homes.

We build homes out of fancy buildings with lots of stuff that we care about, we build them out of our job titles, out of accomplishments, out of friends and significant others–and we work so hard, but they do not stand. Sometimes, even, they cause more pain than anything.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-9

I don’t think I’ll ever feel at home here in this world, and you might not, either. So we wait in anticipation for the hope given to us through the blood of Jesus. God proved that He is for us by shedding His blood for us. Therefore, then, He is worthy of our hope and trust. God is for us.

Confident in the home and identity we have in Christ, we make it our aim to please him, no matter where we are. God is for us, so then, in the likeness of Jesus, let us offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, so that we may be for God.

So whether you find yourself in your hometown, a new community, or maybe you’re moving around every day like us–I encourage and challenge to build your home in Christ. It is the one thing that will not fade away, because we know that he is with us until the very end of the age.

 

FOCUS

Focus. What does it mean to be focused? Merriam-Webster defines focus as ‘directed attention’. An apt description, if I do say so myself.

Being a part of full-time ministry, you hear about the concept of focus very regularly. Your focus is to be on God, and his will, at all times. I often have a problem with this, due to the many hobbies and interests that I have. I too often want to spend a majority of my time working on personal projects, and less of my time focusing on what God wills for my life. I find myself in a constant feedback loop of my own desires. I get caught up in them, and my desire to serve God gets drowned out by my desire to please myself.

Herein lies the problem.

Humans are creatures of habit. As we fill up our free time with things that are less than edifying, whether it be movies, video games, or even videos online, we begin to want to seek that out more. The more focus we put on those things, the less we think about doing what is in God’s will, but instead what is in ours. A great analogy is, funnily enough, the focus on a camera. Because, just like how a camera focusing on something in the background of a shot obscures the foreground, so directing our attention towards our own desires obscures the desires God has for us.

As I said in the first paragraph, I find myself caught in a feedback loop of my own desires. If I keep filling myself up with things that don’t glorify God, at a certain point, that’s all that I will be able to pour out onto others, and it’s all I will seek out. However, if I’m filling myself up with the word, and directing my attention towards God, I will overflow things from the Lord, and be able to pour that out onto those I’m ministering to.

Therefore, the simple solution is to direct our focus towards God. That may seem redundant, but the more we seek the Lord, the more we will desire to seek the Lord, and we won’t have to worry about where we are placing our focus. It will automatically gravitate towards the Lord, as that is where our focus is already being placed. Cut out the things in your life that are in opposition to God’s glory, and force your focus away from those things and towards the Lord, and at a certain point, you won’t have to force it any longer. It will become the new norm.

I leave you with this popular verse, which is applicable in this situation:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Bradley