Loneliness and Planting: A Spiritual Discipline for A.P.E.s

imageThis is a guest post by Alison Marie Smith. She works for Greek InterVarsity at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Her and her husband, Sean, moved to Utah four years ago from the great state of Michigan. She loves reading, running, making meals for her students, and sharing adventures with her husband. Alison blogs at

As a planter, I am attracted by the idea of going where no one has gone before. Four years ago I moved from Michigan to Utah and began planting Greek InterVarsity at the University of Utah. This was the first ministry for fraternity and sorority students in the state as well as in InterVarsity’s Rocky Mountain region. When I arrived in Utah, I was the only Greek InterVarsity staff within a 600-mile radius and few Greek students were involved in Christian ministries. At the time, many people in the West were supportive of Greek InterVarsity, but few understood the unique challenges and value of working with Greek students. It was isolating.

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What is the Problem in Ferguson?

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 9.29.23 PMDora Yiu will be writing monthly posts for the APE going forward! We are so excited to have her on the team. Dora is a full time staff director with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a core leader at Flood Church San Diego and a life long follower of Jesus. After graduating from University of California San Diego, Dora went on to live and serve in the inner city of San Fransisco, ministering to and learning from the urban poor. Currently Dora serves as the Area Director for the San Diego Coast Area, overseeing UCSD and the University of San Diego.

“So… what exactly is the problem in Ferguson?”

This was a sincere and genuine question someone asked me earlier this week, and a question I myself have been pondering all week. It is a truly difficult question to answer because the truth is there is no specific singular problem in this situation but rather a myriad of different problems all intertwined and interlaced into a complex web spun into greater entanglement by the various voices (both boisterous and silent) in both media and social media outlets. I will not pretend to be an expert on anything, nor will I pretend that I understand or know enough of the details surrounding the incident or the events since the death of a young man named Michael Brown. But here are my humble attempts of sharing my reflections on what some of the pieces of the “problem” might be for those who might have this question but be afraid to ask it.

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Three Ways to Engage with Ferguson

By Jon Hietbrink and Howie Meloch

It’s been more than a week since Michael Brown’s tragic death at the hands of police in St. Louis and in the midst of the continuing escalation of violence on the streets of Ferguson, it’s still hard to know how to engage. For some of us, his killing has (again) ripped open a wound laced with incredibly painful memories of personal and systemic racism—“How can this keep happening?!” For others of us, the shooting and its aftermath have provided a window into an experience that feels hard to understand.

There are many (some of whom are linked below) who have written deeply thoughtful and intelligent reflections in the wake of Michael Brown’s death—calls to action and advocacy, response and repentance. We don’t presume to have much to add to what’s already been said, but as we’ve prayed, mourned, and engaged during this difficult week, we wanted to share three brief thoughts for those of us who might feel paralyzed by uncertainty, unsure of how to engage at all in a situation that is so volatile and so painful for so many. Though there is of course much more that needs to be said and done in the wake of this tragedy, here are three humble first steps modeled on the life of Nehemiah that we hope might be an “onramp” for those of us looking for meaningful engagement around this painful situation.

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Ferguson Links and Resources

In the midst of the tragic circumstances unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, we believe it’s critically important that we listen intentionally to the voices of our brothers and sisters of color and allow their perspectives to influence our own.

Of course, there are many articles being written about what’s unfolding, and here are a few that we’ve found helpful over the last week—voices we’ve sought (and needed) to listen to.

  1. An interview with John Perkins (founder of the Christian Community Development Association)
  2. An article about the contextual factors that are in play in Ferguson
  3. An article exploring black rage in response to police brutality:  (GRAPHIC)
  4. Five ways churches must respond
  5. An article written in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin, but still applicable today
  6. Some thoughts on responding as a white person
  7. A post on the need for Asian (and other non-black folks) to engage with these issues
  8. A sermon from Brenda Salter-McNeil on “Faith+Works=Life”

In addition, here’s some folks we’ve been following on Twitter to help ensure we are listening well to a diversity of voices:

  • @druhart — Anabaptist scholar
  • @cscleve — Social Psychologist
  • @blackvoices — Huffington Post Black Voices
  • @antoniofrench — Local Alderman in St. Louis
  • @trymainelee — Journalist

We will love to keep updating these lists–who are you listening to that we could include?


Jesus Didn’t Slap Zacchaeus

Jesus consistently blows my mind. His responses to poor, sick, disabled and abused challenge me to my core and make me examine my heart daily; but today it’s His interactions with the rich and powerful that are astounding.

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Noah and all the space he needed at the beach

Catalytic Leaders Need Space

Recently Noah, my four year old, has been a bit difficult at home. He is listening poorly, pushing boundaries, and at times willfully going against what we say. We were told the twos were terrible and the fours terrific, but it feels the opposite to me.

Yesterday I took my two kids to the beach and I told Noah he could play anywhere he wanted as long as I could see him.

What ensued was telling.

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An Unlikely Planter

This is a guest post by Chizu Shimizu. She is on staff with Intervarsity in San Diego and works with Urban Projects and Student Missions. 

This is an incredible story of being committed to planting new works of God. Chizu, in many ways, was the least likely person in my mind that God would send to get this job done – her role on staff has nothing to do with planting new chapters. But I have known Chizu for almost 15 years and she has a heart that beats for the path of God. I love her obedience to a strange call of God (totally outside her job role) and her willingness to follow God’s planting scent all the way down the trail. Watch this video testimony of her telling the incredible story of a planting mission this last year.

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image credit: john goode

Five-Fold Partnership: What Prophets Need

By Eric Rafferty

Of all the gifts in the body of Christ, prophets above all appear to function just fine on their own. The Bible is full of examples of independent prophets who were sent alone with a message or a task from God. They challenged leaders. They rebuked nations and societies. They stood alone in the gap between God and his people. Maybe this is why so many of the prophets of scripture responded to their initial prophetic calling by basically screaming, “NOOOOOOOO!”

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