February 2014

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-7)

Greetings from Kent! The landscape is still frozen solid here in Northeast Ohio, but there’s quite a bit of hurry-scurry, spring-like activity happening around here on the ministry level. I don’t have the time or space to write an exhaustive report of everything that’s been happening, but here are a handful of highlights from the last few weeks:

NL-LT video conference(1) After much prayer and anticipation, we have selected the team for our Netherlands Leadership Training program, and we’ve since started a weekly video conference to prepare ourselves for the summer.

We’re getting more and more excited about this opportunity, as we all get to know each other and step out in faith to see God meet us in the fund-raising process. Please keep praying for our team!

ManMaker 1(2) For each of the past two weekends, we’ve sent roughly half of our church away from Kent, in connection with our annual “ManMaker” and “Women’s Weekend” events — both of which were highly successful. Did you ever wonder how many pounds of potato chips it takes to satisfy 200+ college guys? Or what it sounds like to be a part of musical worship when the women are absent? Or what shocking similarity has been discovered between a collection of collegiate men and a Dutch hippopotamus? You can find a few fun facts from ManMaker — on my website at https://www.ericasp.com/2014/02/manmaker-fun-facts/.

February 2014 staff training(3) Almost exactly fifteen years after my own initiation to Great Commission Ministries’ Staff program, I had the privilege of helping to serve as one of the trainers for GCM’s New Staff Training class of February 2014. Since the conclusion of this week-long training, twenty new missionaries have started the process of fund-raising and preparation for ministry in a wide variety of contexts, as close as the University of Akron (one new guy coming on to help with our H2O church plant there) and as far away as Milano, Italy. Again, if interested, you can read some more of my reflections on this at https://www.ericasp.com/2014/02/old-staff-training-new-staff-training/.

In addition to all of this, we are currently preparing two teams from H2O who will be heading out on Spring Break missions trips. These are a far cry from the classic “Spring Break Trip” in that they’re not going to any of the popular Spring Break destinations around the Gulf of Mexico, and even in the “mission trip” sense of things these trips are unusual because they’re not organized by H2O (or any other Christian organization for that matter!). Instead, these “Alternative Spring Break” trips are organized by Kent State University and its Office for Experiential Education and Civic Engagement.

H2O Staff and students will be traveling to Cleveland and Columbiana County, and these trips (as well as the five other trips that are offered by the University) are designed to “expose students to social justice and cultural issues through direct service, community visits, reflection, and a variety of cultural activities.” So basically, we will be learning from community leaders in these locations and helping them to serve the less-privileged populations in inner-city Cleveland and the most impoverished rural county of Ohio — together with other Kent State students, who may not be spiritually-minded but are socially-minded (or, perhaps, looking for a bit of credit towards graduation). It’s a very unique opportunity!

As a result, we’re preparing our H2O participants to think of themselves as “double-agents” throughout the course of their Alternative Spring Break trips. On the one hand, they will be learning and serving just like everyone else on the trip. On the other hand, they will be developing friendships with other Kent State students — working side-by-side during the day and hanging out together in the evenings — which we pray may lead these socially-minded “missionaries” to Christ. In previous years, H2O has offered involvement in these Alternative Spring Break initiatives as one of the options for strategically-utilizing one’s Spring Break (alongside trips to help out with sister-churches in the Collegiate Church Network, or to provide a short-term missions experience in the Netherlands). This year, however, we decided to “double-down” on the Alternative Spring Break trips and see what God might do.

I am helping to lead the trip to Columbiana County — which may have as many as 50 participants — so your prayers for patience, personal connections, and the heart of a servant would be greatly appreciated. For the team in general, though, please pray that this Spring Break would allow us to be effective ambassadors for Kent State University, for H2O, and (most importantly) for Jesus Christ. Thanks, as always, for your support that makes all of this possible! We’ll be in touch…


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