It’s Friday night, and a weekend of fun awaits many students. School is out (or almost out), and summer activities beckon: swimming. Fishing. Family vacations. Trips to the ice cream shop or the cool comfort of the local mall.
Yes, for some of them, the fun is mixed with work. They spend at least part of most days taking orders at a fast-food restaurant, babysitting the neighbor’s three “adorable” children or mowing lawns, often in the heat of the day.
But still other students, part of the Awe Star family, are working this weekend—for a different purpose than paying for their Starbucks or gas to fill up Dad’s pickup. They’re holding a massive garage sale. They’re cleaning out their elderly neighbor’s storage room. They’re babysitting the neighbor’s three (you guessed it) “adorable” children. All to raise money for a summer mission trip.
These teens are trading their fun for the work they will do on the mission field in a few short weeks. Soon, they’ll head out to Awe Star University, where they’ll spend hours in the sun (with mandatory sunscreen and water) learning choreography for an 18-minute dramatic presentation that tells the story of Jesus from creation through resurrection. They’ll worship, pray and study the Scriptures. They'll discuss methods for running a simple medical clinic and practice sharing their testimonies. They’ll learn some basic principles of cross-cultural work and hear from leaders whose passion for Jesus spreads like wildfire.
Early (well, not always, but often) one morning, they’ll begin the next phase of their journey by carrying a heavy backpack and other necessities through a crowded airport. Excitement will combine with nervousness to yield plenty of giggles, but the group will make sure to take time out to pray for divine encounters in the airport and on the plane. Some will have life-changing conversations right there.
What do they expect? Some have gone before, so they have an idea. Others wonder how much of what others have told them to believe. And they also have lots of questions. Will the people welcome them? Will the food make them sick? Will they adjust to a summertime family of twelve or more? And of course the all-important questions: What will the bathrooms be like?
What many of these students don’t yet realize is that by giving up their free time and “losing” much of their summer, they will gain much more. Post-mission trip reports include phrases like “best summer of my life.” “I finally know who I am in Christ.” “I got so close to my teammates.” “I fell in love with the people.” “I didn’t want the trip to end.”
This Friday night, and other nights, will you remember to pray for these emerging adults who will soon cross borders near and far to extend the gospel? Will you ask God to protect them, provide for them and meet any last-minute or long-term needs?
Perhaps you know one or more of these young missionaries. Are their trips fully funded? Could they use a boost, financial or otherwise? Could you take time to pray over them and then slip some cash into their hand or their online Awe Star account?
We invite you to be a part of, to paraphrase martyred missionary Jim Elliot, “giving what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose.” Missions is an investment of time, treasure and talent. The rewards? Priceless. The return? Eternal.
It’s a word we tend to associate with the negative. Because our culture tends to tell all (or at least a stylized version of “all”), we somehow think that when something remains unspoken, it’s too horrible to speak aloud. Too serious to share. Too radical to reveal.
But sometimes, unspoken is just that: unspoken. Not put into words. Shared only for the spirit, the “thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
Somehow, the phrase “unspoken prayer request” doesn’t come up too often anymore. Back in the days of the old-fashioned church prayer meeting, the leader (generally the pastor) would always pause at the end of a time of sharing prayer requests: “Who has an unspoken?”
Here and there across the sanctuary, hands would go up. One might represent problems in a marriage. Another, a suspected illness. Still another, a personal struggle with sin.
But those hands might also represent a still-new pregnancy. A promising job offer. A future and hope.
Sometimes the “unspoken” came because the person sharing it did not have permission to go beyond the general. Sometimes it came because of a desire, good or bad, to remain private. And sometimes the request remained unspoken because of other people and situations who would be wounded by more open sharing.
On the field and at home, Awe Star has unspoken requests too. Yes, we share plenty of prayer needs both here and on the field. But there are always those needs that must, for various reasons, remain unspoken.
It may be an issue of timing. Sometimes it’s because we need to keep our missionaries safe and secure. Or there may be health concerns that don’t warrant broadcasting. Perhaps a gift has been promised but not received, an application started but not finished, a team opened but not filled.
And so many more.
Today, as you pray for Awe Star, would you pray for our unspoken? We have some big ones right now, and we’re pretty sure you do, too. Please know that we’re praying for you and all your unspoken, too.
Last week, in part 1, you read about how our rite of passage process makes Awe Star unique. We are not only a mission-sending organization, but we work to take our students through a rite of passage that moves them from childhood through adulthood. On the field, we give them significant tasks that build adult skills and adult responsibilities into their lives. (For more on this topic, check out Walker Moore’s book Rite of Passage Parenting along with the Rite of Passage Parenting Workbook).
But of course, Awe Star is not just a student mission-sending organization. And the next “Awe Star difference” applies to everyone on our trips, from youngest to oldest, from newbie missionary to seasoned veteran. That difference is discipleship.
Yes, we know other missions organizations also provide for discipleship. But Awe Star’s multiple ways of getting the Word into our missionaries means the entire trip is a discipleship experience. We begin our mornings with discipleship in the form of our guided quiet times. During the day, we may also allow for times of teaching by our small group leaders (POPs and MOMs) or our team directors. And often, our country coordinators take time at a meal or in the evening to pour still more discipleship into our students. We cover certain teachings on every trip so that no matter where the missionary serves, he or she returns home with a solid foundation that equips them to live the lifestyle of a missionary long after they have left the field.
Awe Star has also become known for its ManUp and ReignOn groups for men and women, respectively. In an era where gender lines have become blurred and the general rule for sexuality is “anything goes,” Awe Star unpacks the concept of a biblical worldview and allows groups to tackle tough topics in a safe, protected environment.
Awe Star discipleship also occurs while the mission teams are in action. When you look at the Gospels, you rarely see Jesus alone. Instead, you see Him taking a small group (or sometimes a larger one) with him as He ministered. Instead of giving a point-by-point lesson in healing, for example, He showed His disciples how to pray for a desperate woman in a desperate situation. All sorts of hands-on discipleship takes place on an Awe Star mission trip as leaders walk out their faith while other students watch and, if appropriate, join in.
So, celebrate the difference—and consider Awe Star for your next mission trip.
Could it be now? Could it be soon?
You’ve seen it on our website and read it in our brochures: “The Awe Star difference.” But what do we mean by that?
There are lots of student missions-sending organizations, and yes, we’re one of those. In the past year-plus, you may have noticed we’ve added a medical component to some of our trips. We’ve also become more family-focused, so if you’re interested in serving as a family, feel free to call our office and discuss that possibility.
But one of the main Awe Star differences has been there right from the beginning. In fact, it played a part in the founding of Awe Star more than 25 years ago.
Dr. Walker Moore was a youth pastor who had a problem bigger than the normal youth-pastor problems (Did I order enough pizza? Why does the middle-school boys’ Sunday school room smell so bad? What are those girls talking about?). He noticed that the problems his seniors had as they graduated were the same problems they had when they entered his youth program. Despite years of teaching, discipleship and ministry, their lives showed little change. And many of them, as they went away to college, also went away from church.
So Walker started to talk to his students, present and past. And he realized something: The one thing he did that had a real and lasting impact wasn’t youth camp. It wasn’t game night. It wasn’t even DiscipleNow or weekly small group. It was mission trips.
You see, Walker had begun taking students across the border to Mexico and allowing them to minister alongside Primera Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Laredo. These students had a firsthand look at the lostness of humanity from a completely different culture only miles away from their own. They stepped away from what can often be the selfishness of the teenage years and into a world where their service and sharing made a real difference. They took on adult tasks and adult responsibilities because Walker called them into their adulthood, refusing to take “teenagers” with adolescent-type behavior on his trips.
He expected the best. And he got it—in more ways than he anticipated. Not only did the students take the gospel to the people of Mexico, but the gospel got into their own hearts in a lasting way.
No, they didn’t all become pastors or missionaries. But many, so many, became fully devoted followers of Christ who lived the lifestyle of a missionary from that trip on.
Yes, some of those Awe Star alumni are famous now. Heather Mercer. Bart Millard. B.J. Higgins. Peggy Nunley—to name a few. But there are thousands more whose lives bear the impact of one or multiple Awe Star trips.
Is it time you or someone you know experienced the Awe Star difference? Pray and ask God how you should respond.
Maybe you need to submit an application (or urge someone else to do so).
Maybe you need to sponsor someone’s trip.
Maybe you need to become one of our giving partners.
Certainly you need to pray (see this post).
The Awe Star difference. It’s real. It's life-changing. And you can read more about it next week in part 2.