Iowa: More than just corn and soy beans
Family, friends, pigs, and round robin ping-pong: such ingredients - mixed together with sharing and investing in the lives of hundreds of students - all made for a great time in Iowa and took us on various (some hillarious) adventures. During our recent visit to the state known for corn and soy beans, we were able to connect with a church, a school, and to spend time with students on a youth retreat. Each event took place in a different part of Iowa, giving us a wide variety of audiences and platforms, but what each location equally gave us was the opportunity to discuss in detail the problems of evil, having doubt, and in telling the story of the "prodigal God". These ideas are summed up in our second year program known as “The Threads”, where we talk about the bigger story of life and always ask the question “what's your story for the world?”
Our first stop was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where we got to meet Lindsey’s parents. They showered us with love, hospitality, and healthy food - all of which were wonderful. We spoke to the youth at their church. This was a more-than-usual relaxed and comfortable atmospher,e where we were able to have a life-on-life impact with many of the students. In small groups, we were able to take the topics even deeper and make each of the questions personal. In my small group, we asked "what part of God’s bigger story does your church play?" Each of the guys were excited by the thought that God has a story for the world and that each one of them were playing a specific role in the bigger narrative.
Once we wrapped things up in Cedar Rapids, we traveled to a little dutch community in Pella, Iowa to speak at their local private high school. This was a big transition for us. Instead of a small church setting, we would be speaking to 300 students. Even though the material was the same, the size of the audience made it somewhat different to present. God worked to open doors for here too, to still have one on one conversations with several of the students, to talk with them about their questions on evil and the discomfort of doubt. We were able to teach in several of the classrooms, which enabled us to get to know a fair amount of the students and to talk with them in a more casual setting. It was a joy to be used by God to so reach the student body.
Little did we know, but Pella would provide us with an experience that I’m sure none of us will forget for a long time. Most children have received a what's known as a “piggy-back” ride from their dad while they are small, but few can say that they have had an actual “Piggy-back” ride. The Pliema family, who hosted us, were also the owners of a large pig farm. We asked if we could tour it, and they offered to take us and even invited us to participate in the chore of herding pigs into their pens. This was easier said than done. Pigs are pretty stubborn, and it takes quite a bit of prodding to get them to move. But with the four of us barricading the various escape routes, we somehow managed to move over 200 pigs into their pens. Upon finishing, the owner asked if any of us would like to ride the pigs?!!
Asha and I quickly jumped into the pens and began to look for a suitable pig to ride. One thing is for sure, and thats that pigs don’t like being touched and they certainly don’t like to be rode on! Both of us had a time of it, trying to ignore the squealing and dodging, trying to stay on for longer than the average record of 3 seconds. I eventually won with the longest time of 8 seconds, so I think i’m ready for riding bulls...but, maybe not. All of us enjoyed our time with the pigs, even though we ended up smelling like them over the next few days.
Our final destination in Iowa was the youth retreat with Des Moines First Assembly of God. The camp environment allowed us to connect with the students almost immediately because we were able to better informally interact with them. By participating in games like dodge ball, round-robin ping pong, carpet ball, and bowling, the youth got to see us as real people and not just “the hired speakers.” This allowed all of us to again have personal conversations with many of them; we got to listen to their story, their background, and better encourage them to be thinkers and lovers of wisdom.
All of us on the team have grown through the experience of speaking and in our walks with Christ. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Iowa, getting the chance to impact so many lives and further bonding as a team. We love having deep conversations, watching documentaries, and listening to what leading thinkers have to say about some of the topics we discuss. You can call us nerds but all of us genuinely enjoy doing these things together. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10