Rallying to the True North
As I write, basketball fever is gripping the nation. Like everyone else. I am celebrating the Raptors. I’ve also been reflecting on how their story echoes some of the things I’ve been learning as I settle into leading InterVarsity’s team, particularly in the areas of vision, adversity, gratitude and focus.
The Raptors launched the We the North campaign in 2014 to try and unite Canadians in all their diversity. Their goal of creating a common identity for a people who felt like outsiders brought focus to players and fans alike.
InterVarsity also seeks to unite Canadians in all their diversity as we bring the Good News of Jesus to contemporary culture, apply the Bible to the whole of life, and grow a new generation of leaders for church and society. We are unashamed of our identity in Christ.
Our 90-year history is not defined by a slogan but shaped by a vision: seeing young people discover Jesus and be transformed for life. Over the past year, I have been privileged to meet many students, staff, graduates and supporters from across Canada who are firmly committed to who we are and what we are doing. We thrive on your support. The way you cheer us on reminds us you are also invested in reaching young people.
The Raptors have had seasons of success and struggle. Often they failed to meet their own expectations or satisfy fans. Knowing when to adapt and when to persevere is vital to progress.
This is a challenging season for InterVarsity. Our increasingly secular society makes Christian witness more difficult. The findings in Hemorrhaging Faith and Renegotiating Faith demand we take new approaches if we are to help young people choose faith rather than walk away from it – especially in life’s transitions.
When I arrived and began taking stock of our financial picture, I realized we needed to reduce our budget significantly in order to keep our expenses in line with available funds. This has resulted in the painful decision to reduce our national staff complement by eight people, including several who held senior management roles.
Some of our staff are facing significant personal challenges, including Missions Director Steve Colby who is battling cancer. His wife, Susie, our Vice-President, Campus, is taking time off to care for Steve and their family. We appreciate the outpouring of prayer and support they are receiving.
The gospel thrives in adversity and we value your support through the hard times as well as the seasons of celebration.
Raptor MVP Kawhi Leonard recently said: “Last year was a very down year for me, I was going through a lot. And you know, God is good!”
We see God’s goodness in spite of our challenges and are grateful for:
- A new National Leadership team comprised of more and younger staff who will help us develop fresh vision and strategy.
- 380 students who spent a week in May immersed in Scripture at one of six MARKcamps across the country.
- Students planting chapters on campuses where we have no full-time staff.
- Seeds of new high school ministry in Calgary and Winnipeg.
- The privilege of serving thousands of children and teens at camp this summer.
- Our many ministry partners. I have been privileged to meet with many of you already and look forward to more connections this summer.
The Raptors were committed to pressing on and they won the finals. Of course spiritual work and sport have different criteria for success and failure but there are commonalities in what it takes to get to the finish line.
We know we need to do things differently if we are to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment. We want to get better at mentoring young people as they transition from camp to high school, and then into college, university and on to the workplace.
Sport is an amazing gift, offering glimpses of perfection, experiences of community and emotional highs and lows. But we have something greater and better. Our True North is not a point on the compass. It is God, the only one who can keep our land glorious and free. Raptor Jeremy Lin (an InterVarsity USA alumnus) says: “If you look back at my story, it doesn’t matter where you look, but God’s fingerprints are all over the place.”
Please keep praying with us that young people at camp, students on campus and graduates in the marketplace will testify to God’s fingerprints being all over their lives, pointing others to him. Thank you for being partners with us. Like the Raptors, we are energized and encouraged by those who cheer us onward. The celebrations for the Raptors were magnificent. We anticipate something even greater as we witness God’s Kingdom in action.
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