Blaze 2018 – three weeks to walk in discipleship. The time was a life-changing experience for both the leaders and the participants! The concept was to walk in life and truth with individuals, discipling them according to the example Jesus modeled in the Gospels. The goal of Blaze was to see eyes opened to God’s Word and hearts lit on fire for Christ. These ambitions were met beyond any of the leader’s expectations; the Holy Spirit gets the credit for this transformation in the students’ lives.
The first three-week session of Blaze was in Dubuque, IA. Each day included four hours of class time covering an overview of the Bible, methods and tools to promote deep personal Bible study, cross-cultural communication, evangelism principles and methods, spiritual discipleship, and more. The Blaze participants were reminded daily that the information they are learning wasn’t to stop with them; they needed to be prepared to pass it on in discipleship. To emphasize this fact, re-teaching was a method used often.
Throughout the three weeks, there were times of meaningful worship through song and reflective prayer. Mealtimes provided in-depth fellowship, and a place to ask follow-up questions to the teachers. Personal reflection time was in the afternoon for the students to process and apply what the Lord was revealing to them. Another daily activity was an hour of pure Bible reading. This time together was special and insightful, allowing the group to read entire books of the Bible in one sitting.
Students and leaders also met in mentor groups, which was a powerful time to share real-life issues and wrestle with how to walk with the Lord in this generation. There were also dedicated times of service and volunteer work. In the evenings, students often engaged in personal evangelism using the methods and encouragement heard earlier in the day. When the Blaze team came back together each time, there were many stories of the Lord moving to open doors of conversation with unbelievers. Even in routine activities like grocery shopping, the goal was to have Jesus’ vision for the lost and seek to intentionally share the Gospel.
Blaze’s mission was to see hearts and lives transformed for Jesus Christ and, praise be to God, this was accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Many of the students from the first session continued their Blaze journey in Peru. The goals were the same—Bible teaching, evangelism, discipleship training—but the actual experience was entirely different. Blaze Peru proved to be incredibly hard, totally exhausting, profoundly humbling, deeply heart-breaking, intensely bonding, and thoroughly life-changing. The disciples saw a completely different culture, a different way of life, and a level of poverty they had never seen. It gave them opportunities to suffer well and to share the gospel with neglected and needy people.
After spending several days in fellowship with believers in the city at a youth conference, the Blaze team traveled by boat down the muddy and turbulent waters of the jungle river. The trip continued on land, with miles of deep jungle hiking from village to village. In these jungle villages, the team did open air preaching, children’s meetings, and hut-to-hut evangelism while using skits, songs, and testimonies. The activities were in addition to continued Bible-reading and memorization, devotionals with prayer and worship, often with believers from the jungle churches.
The Blaze Peru experience was physically demanding. In the course of the trip, the Blaze team hiked over fifty miles while crossing five rivers and visiting five different villages. They traveled by truck, motorboat, canoe, horse, and on foot. They trudged through the mud, thick jungle, and open fields, weathering extreme humidity with sweltering heat. They slept in tents, bathed in the river, ate strange things, and experienced a whole different world. They preached, prayed, studied, served, and evangelized their hearts out. It was hard, but it was good. It was exhausting, but it was rewarding. It was an unforgettable and growing experience for everyone. We are praising the Lord for the mighty things He did during Blaze Peru.
Be in prayer—not only for the Blaze participants, but also for the many that heard the gospel through the efforts of the team in the jungles of Peru, and the city of Dubuque!
It was a privilege to see 12 students graduate from Blaze 2018. Participants came from around the world: Eight from the USA, one from Canada, and three from Colombia. Deep bonds of fellowship and friendship were formed. Life direction was altered. The experience of walking together daily, sharing both life and truth, proved to be transformational for Blaze participants. But that’s not the end goal. The Blaze students were reminded daily that Christ’s strategy for discipleship was multiplication, and that all they learned and experienced was meant to be passed on to others in discipleship. We are praying the Lord will use these brothers and sisters to build up His church and do great things for His name’s sake!
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