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Of Sacrifice, Mission, Ecumenism, and Christ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 10 December 2007 05:41
The descriptions of the two young adults who died in the shooting at the Youth With A Mission base near Denver are moving and pretty typical of what I have experienced of YWAMers. From the Denver Post:

One young man who died, Phil Kraus, was a former angry skinhead. He had been on medication and psychiatric care for depression but after his conversion, had discovered the "the power of a giving life". He was preparing to become a missionary to the Muslims of Kazakhstan.

"He said he was willing to give his life to do the work over there," Chandler said. "If that meant staying over there for the rest of his life, he would. If that meant dying over there, he would." Crouse taught himself Russian and German and would visit Russian cafes and German clubs in Anchorage to give his testimony, Chandler said. He also took rides on buses, just so he could share the Gospel with other riders, Chandler said.

Chandler said that if Crouse had been a survivor, he would have been the one leading prayers for the killer.
"If Phil had ever seen this guy, I'm sure he ministered to him at some point," Chandler said. "If Phil was one of the surviving ones, he would have visited this guy in jail. That's the kind of guy Phil was."

The young woman who died, Tiffany Johnson, was already an experienced missionary at 26. She had served with YWAM in the Middle East and Africa. "always smiling, always caring." It was Johnson, who because of her welcoming personality was in charge of hospitality at the base. It was she who was called in to gently tell the young man who had been hanging about and talking to the staff for 30 minutes that he couldn't spend the night. While I'm sure there were policies in place, did she sense that he was unsafe?

There has been regular conversations over the past year around St. Blog's about the phenomena of Muslims turning to Christ and inevitably some bristling about why it is evangelicals and not Catholics, who are the prime agents. To answer that question, you need to consider an organization like Youth With A Mission. When I run into a diocese that has a house of 45 Catholic young adults preparing to go spend their lives proclaiming Christ in places like Kazakhstan, I'll let you know. YWAM runs 1,100 such centers around the world.

The irony is that the man who led us on our "walk with the poor" Saturday is the son of long term YWAM staff. He is now a strongly left-leaning social-justice focused Catholic but I could still see the traces of the YWAM lifestyle in him. He still believes and seeks to serve Christ, has the same burning desire to serve others, the same willingness to simplify one's life and to sacrifice for the sake of others. He was obviously skeptical about the power of spiritual conversion to change the situation of the addicted and the mentally ill on the street and much more comfortable with the non-evangelizing focus of Catholics involved in serving the poor. One wonders what his experience of YWAM life had been.

What was interesting about that small group trudging through the snow was that all four of us had been heavily marked by evangelicalism although we were now all seriously practicing Catholics, Two were converts, one was a revert, and one a professional church musician (with a remarkable vocation story which I may blog about later) who had just finished a three year full time stint with an evangelical mega-church in the Northeast.

All of us wrestling with what it means to live "a giving life". What part of this rises out of our various evangelicals roots, what part out of our present Catholic faith? How can one parse one's life in that way? But all of us would say, it was because Christ had commanded us to do so and we were seeking to live as his disciples. As were those who died Sunday.

And there is a powerful sort of apostolic ecumenism in that. Those who sacrifice for the sake of Christ and his purposes in the world can't help but feel a kinship. A kinship beyond the categories of left and right, even of Protestant and Catholic. And this kinship, we know, has a sacramental reality - a real communion with Christ through faith and baptism and therefore, at least, a partial communion with one another. And a hope for this life and for eternity.

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