Friday, March 28, 2014
I got a great deal on my red backpack when I was in college. I needed a backpack that wasn’t going to fall apart after lugging around multiple textbooks and tons of music. It has far surpassed that need. With the exception of a short period of time as a teacher, I’ve always carried it with me. It has traveled with me to France and Kenya. This summer I will take it with me to the Middle East. This backpack is fantastic, but I’m often asked why I’m 33 and still using a backpack.
There are multiple reasons why. Mostly, it is convenient and easy to carry. Once I started doing campus ministry, I discovered it allowed me to blend in with students making it easier to build relationships with them. Today I was reminded of another reason why I enjoy carrying a backpack: it starts conversations.
I walked into my favorite coffee shop and was waited on by a college-aged girl I had not yet met. As soon as I walked up to the counter she said, “I like you backpack. I have one just like it.” I thanked her and mentioned I had been using this pack for several years. She shared a similar story mentioning she got hers when she was pretty young. I told her I loved the back because, until that morning, I had never had even a sign of the fabric tearing even though I had carried it around the world with me. Again, she had a similar story and started asking about my world travels.
As we chatted a line started to form, so I ordered my drink and moved to the end of the bar. The barista preparing the drinks asked me a few more questions about Kenya. At some point the topic of traveling to Israel came up in the conversation. The man who was directly behind me in line, had already ordered his drink and joined us at the end of the bar waiting for our coffee. He was intrigued by the idea of choosing to go to Israel and joined the conversation asking some questions.
Our dialogue is now bouncing back and forth between a couple customers and employees and we’ve transitioned to talking about my job as a campus minister. The man behind me asks, “How in the world did you get into that field?” I chuckled a bit and told him it was a fairly long story of me being stubborn. No one says anything, only stares waiting for me to explain. I begin to share and answer questions as they are asked.
At this point I realized every employee has stopped working and is listening to me. The entire line of customers has shifted their attention towards me. Part of me thought they were all annoyed that I was wasting their time so I tried to summarize a very long process in a few short sentences. I looked past the group of customers who had gathered in line and realized almost the entire coffee shop was listening to me talk.
“This is so weird," I thought. "Why are they all staring at me? I can’t tell if they are captivated or annoyed. What do I do? Talk about Jesus!” So I did. I very briefly shared about my conversations with God in the process of coming on staff with Impact. I shared about how God doesn’t give up on His creation. Even when we would rather chose to be disobedient, he chases after us and shows us His love.
The barista hands me my coffee and says, “That’s awesome.” The man behind me says, “Hmm…that is interesting. I hope you have a great trip to Israel.” I responded, “God is pretty great,” and thanked them. Several others nodded, smiled and went their separate ways. All the employees went back to work and walked outside completely amazed and confused by the whole thing.
My simple red backpack was what started the entire dialogue. It was a casual conversation that ended with sharing about God’s incredible love for us. I don’t know the stories of people in the coffee shop that day. But I do know my God longs for all of us to understand how great his love is for us. He uses kings and beggars, young and old, prophets, shepherds, and evidently red backpacks as a way to make Himself known to us.
I think I’ll keep carrying my red backpack and praying that I will continue to decrease as he continues to increase.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Almost a year ago I traveled with some Impact Campus Ministries staff and students on one of our Impact the World initiatives to help students engage in the call to discipleship through a cross-cultural experience.
Last year I participated in the Kenya experience, and as you may know I was planning on returning this May, co-leading the same trip. Due to some circumstances beyond our control, the mission organization that hosts our group is unable to do so this year. Much to our disappointment this forced us to cancel the trip. However, Kenya is not the only Impact the World trip, and I want to take advantage of the opportunities I have to help challenge students to answer the call of discipleship. This July I will be joining the greater Impact family in another Impact the World initiative to Israel and Turkey.
Marty Solomon, an Associate Campus Minister at Washington State University and University of Idaho, is leading this trip that will focus on the journey of God’s people through the Bible. This is not a sightseeing trip, but rather a very intense study trip with the opportunity to dive into the Text with students in the culture and context that it was written. Just like the Kenya trip, it provides opportunities for mentoring and discipleship beyond the trip itself and challenges everyone in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
In order to be a part of this incredible initiative, I need to raise approximately $5,795 to cover all costs and materials during our time there (July 11-31). I would love to have you partner with me as I continue to Impact the U. Impact the World.
If you would like to donate to this project, you may do so by mailing your check to:
Impact Campus Ministries (indicate “Sarah Koutz’s BEMA Trip”)
PO Box 82925
Tampa, FL 33682
You may also give online HERE.