Dear Friends, Family, and all of my Supporters!

         If you are in ministry you already know the truth of this next statement, full-time ministry is all consuming, devastatingly hard, but possibly the most life giving vocation I could have ever given my life to. Ministry is all time-consuming not merely because its full time work, but because you carry much responsibility for those in your care, and, as Paul says, ‘have them in your heart’ (Philippians 1:7). Learning some of the ministry skills for for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s ministry has been the most humbling aspect of ministry thus far–as I thankfully anticipated. But those, fully honoured in their impact upon my heart and soul, are next to nothing when measured beside all the ways ministry has contributed to my own spiritual growth and discipleship. From Dec. 25th to Jan. 9th I will be home to share much more in-depth personally as an individual but for now I want to embrace the lesson of Doctor Strange which I watched with one of my housemates recently, that really, this is not all about me.

         Allow me to introduce you to two of our students- Miriam Carjan and Mae Anne Devera, a dynamic female duo that make me question how much I have to contribute to their discipleship really but am glad for the opportunity anyway. Having known that Mae Anne suffered from an anxiety disorder, I wanted to offer a spiritual perspective on such things given my own experience with O.C.D.. Miriam in her spiritual journey had already been compelled to care for Mae Anne! All three of us then are mutually discipling each other together with the theme of faith, and specifically faith as taking risks toward God. During our Fellowship’s Bible studies in Acts we have been learning a lot about prophecies and dreaming, and that the Holy Spirit is still giving these gifts now in the midst of our students is clear. Mae Anne had created a thought map of spiritual discernment that had lead her to the same clear centre that I had been already led to lead them, which was faith both as asking God to take responsibility for anxieties, but also in taking risks toward him. As we’ve been exploring this idea Mae Anne has been growing in her clear gifts of teaching others such as in our weekly English conversational group English Corner, but also in wisdom as to how to understand Biblical truth and apply it to her life. Likewise Miriam is at a place where she is so effectively leading our English Corner team that when I forget things I am so glad she is there to remind me. Lastly with regards to both of them, they are learning so much about the Bible and both of them are shining examples to the rest of our students as to how to witness to their friends and invite them into learning about Jesus! Mae Anne has invited and successfully brought more people to English Corner than the rest of our team combined, and now has invited a friend of hers to learn about Jesus through the Gospel of Luke. Miriam has surpassed all of us in inviting people from English Corner into learning about Jesus. Miriam genuinely was concerned about how to witness to others, but now that she has been given the confidence she has taken off immensely.

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         One other student I want to introduce you to is Josh Brown. Josh is an unexpected gift and challenge from God to our ministry. Josh is half-Canadian, half-American, and was part of the Marine core for many years having been compelled by the attacks of 9/11 to enlist. Having now finished up, he has come to Concordia University to pursue a business education. Josh, much to the surprise of some of our fellowship is an active, dedicated and servant hearted disciple of Jesus. He and I have had many conversations about life, the Bible, and politics. It is his strong political opinions in particular that has put him at odds to the rest of our fellowship. The rest of our fellowship are polite cultural Canadians- Josh is a Donald Trump supporter who believes that God is giving, by Trump, America its last chance to repent. How to both honour all the wonderful passion that he has for us, and his long and genuine desire to serve God and find community, while at the same time learning to navigate and manage such stark differences has been a ministry lesson that will last long beyond this year. In serving students, I did not expect to be serving a soldier. Josh reminds me greatly of the centurion who had greater faith than anyone in Israel (Matthew 8:5-13), though no one would have expected someone like him to have such faith. Nevertheless, we pray that he will grow in spiritual maturity, particular as we study together what the Bible calls us to with regard to politics, and as we learn in practice the important application Paul gave in Romans 14 to “not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister,” including strong political views.

         In the midst of these testimonies however, there are stories about students who choose to run away from God. In one relationship, a student of ours from English Corner was seeking to learn about Christianity in general but as we were studying together his personal confrontation of his own pride from what he was learning in the story of the younger brother in the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) was far too overwhelming. He ran away from learning more about Jesus, his life and teachings, ultimately because addressing our own pride is never easy. In another relationship, a young non-Christian man and his nominal Christian girlfriend had been hurt by other ministries and therefore choose to end our friendship together for fear of further hurt and the disintegration of their relationship. The circumstances around these stories does not permit me to divulge much material but what I can say is that evangelism more than anything else, fills me with such self-doubt. “Was I too aggressive?” “Would it have turned out any different if I had been more gentle?” “Was what I was hoping for from taking these risks of invitation and asking these questions–that of bringing them into a relationship with Jesus–really outweigh the cost that may be incurred, of not only further alienation from me but their further alienation from the Christian message?” Evangelism is when you find out just how much you are really willing to risk for your faith in terms of your human relationships, whether family or friends. Are you willing to risk all the fun, all the affection, and all the joy that comes from those relationships for the sake of the well-being and the very salvation of those with whom you are in relationship with, by the means finding their innermost longings in a joyful and affectionate relationship with God? Conversion is something that I dearly long for, for all people, a result of my heart for evangelism inherited and nurtured primarily by my earthly father as I’ve learned. Bringing such a heart into ministry was one of the most important things God has done in our ministry thus far.

         Friends, there is so much more I could right about, such as  our Myers-Briggs training, our Gender and Sexuality training with InterVarsity, how my outreach to the Socialist club is going, our ministry partnership with Haiti, our annual fundraising dinner, two Hip-Hop performance opportunities I’ve had, my relationship with St.Peter’s Anglican Church, and my latest opportunity to preach there but I would like to end with how you could be praying for us. First, please pray for the men in our fellowship to take a more active role in discipling one another. Since Sebastian, my co-worker at Concordia, and I have arrived the amount of men in around our fellowship has doubled, which, while creating an immense opportunity for the men in our fellowship to be discipled by their male peers, has been mostly reliant upon Sebastian and I, a situation we want to remedy. However, as much as Sebastian and I try to create these opportunities for growth, nothing will change unless God moves in the hearts of these young men to start looking out for one another. Second, and lastly, please pray that our fellowship will continue to have a good relationship with Concordia University for whether it has been the student union or the MultiFaith Centre we have had good relationships with them and they remind us that our fellowship does not exist solely for ourselves but for the betterment of our campus.

Thank you fellow saints for your support, with love and gratitude,

Caleb Upton

In the next Episode:  St. Joseph’s Oratory, Social Service projects, Christmas, more on the outreach to non-Christians, and more!  

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