“Listen honey, I am rejoicing!”

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No matter if it was a cab driver, church pastor, young mother or even a U.S. President, she called everyone “honey.”  When she prayed aloud, you sensed she was always eagerly anticipating how the Lord would show up with His joy and presence.

photo credit:  Guy Gerrard/WorldWide Challenge, Cru

Shannon and I owe a lot to Vonette Bright.   Without her consistent, encouraging voice and strong leadership alongside her husband Dr. Bill Bright (1921 – 2003), who co-founded Cru alongside her in 1951, we may have never met.  Cru has grown into one of the world’s largest missionary organizations and their commitment to family is much a result of Mrs. Bright’s influence.

It is with sadness, yet with the same eager anticipation which filled her prayers, that we share with you that Mrs. Bright went to be with the Lord a week ago today on December 23.  She was 89.   Up until recent months, she was still extremely active in the ministry of Cru – speaking, writing books, serving on committees and extending rich hospitality to many staff and guests in her home.

As recently as this November, David saw Mrs. Bright attending a Thanksgiving service at Cru Headquarters.  She was in a wheelchair but appeared to be in good spirits.

She passed away peacefully at home in Orlando with her family beside her.   Diagnosed with Leukemia only a few weeks prior, her health quickly declined but in her last days she said several times, “I am not sad.  It has been such a privilege for me to serve the staff of Cru and to see so many lives changed.  I’m not worried about His timing (for death) or His plans. …Oh honey, I am rejoicing!”

One thing about Vonette’s story that always intrigued us concerns her engagement to Bill and a transformation in Vonette’s life.   At the time, Bill Bright was a young believer committed to evangelism, but there was significant doubt regarding Vonette’s relationship with Christ.  Although a churchgoer, she did not see Jesus as real or personal.  As Bill grew stronger in his faith, Vonette saw the train wreck approaching:  “I decided that Bill had become a religious fanatic and that somehow he must be rescued from this fanaticism!” said Vonette shortly after their engagement.

photo credit: Cru
Bill & Vonette Bright – circa 1999 photo credit: Cru and vonettebright.com

If you want to find how the story finally resulted in a very happy marriage and Vonette coming to know Jesus, view the simple website here in her memory.   Read Vonette’s story.  You’ll be blessed.  You can even write a tribute message of your own.

Thank you for partnering with us in 2015.  You have made this a fabulous year of personal growth, blessing and great joy in serving the Lord.  Happy New Year!

Serving as a Flawed Leader

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What to do when those you work closely with make hurtful decisions or decisions you strongly disagree with?

Yes, this very thing can and does happen in Christian organizations and even in serving alongside friends at church.  The Lord doesn’t always protect us from disagreements and doesn’t want us to deny or isolate ourselves from it.  Conflict just happens.  Believers seek to uphold unity and selfless love but in reality we don’t always live harmoniously.

We’ve worked very closely in team relationships with full time Christian workers for over 20 years now.  As a whole, the experience has been wonderful.  Yet some days it feels like far too much fuss is made about things that really don’t matter that much. Other days not nearly enough fuss (productive fuss) is made about matters that are truly important.

So, disagreement happens.   How will I respond when it does happen?  These are lessons I am learning:

1) First, thank Jesus and bring God into the negative

Pray for those who made the decisions you disagree with.  By name, pray for the people who hurt you and lift up their heart to the Lord.   Seek to bless them.

2) Take initiative to reconcile

If the relationship is damaged, take the initiative to forgive, ask for forgiveness and go to them and seek to be reconciled.  It is very hard to be the first to reach out and reconcile when you’ve been hurt.  This is where the gospel is critical.  Jesus forgave us to provide the means and power for us to forgive others.   It doesn’t work without the cross.  But it also takes a very honest and sometimes lengthy commitment to repair a broken relationship.  Forgiveness can be relatively quick, yet rebuilding trust requires time and commitment.

3) Seek to listen and understand their point of view

Often people with many responsibilities make decisions under pressure.  Sometimes they have incomplete information or slanted information and yet a decision needs to be made.  Uncover the context from their perspective.

4) Lead change in the wake of decisions you disagree with

Find ways to lead change in one element of the decision that was made that you can believe in.  Look for the bright spots, hopeful places and opportunities this new decision has opened up.  Don’t attempt to revert everything to the way it was before or undermine the decision.

5) Lean into the process with your heart

Psalm 37 gives us a picture of a man who could be near the edge of brooding or anger over the evil plans or upright plans of those who “prosper in their way.”  The Psalmist says to be still, wait for the Lord, fret not, trust Him, commit your way to Him, delight yourself in Him with your heart and He will give you the desires of your heart.

I look in the mirror everyday.  I see a flawed, imperfect leader who truly desires to lead with God’s heart, but falls terribly short.  It’s inevitable that I will make poor decisions and even hurt people I care about.   I’m in process on learning how to follow flawed leaders and leading as a flawed leader myself.


What Happens When We Send?

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How much value or “return on investment” is there from sending teams on short term mission trips?   Just as the first Christians sent Paul and Barnabas, so do tens of thousands of churches and groups of believers, like Cru, take joy in sending and see the Lord work in the hearts of those sent as well as those people they minister to.

This is a wonderful story of students reaching students on a summer mission trip with Cru.  Over 3,000 student leaders stepped out in faith this summer on a mission trip for the Lord to use them to talk with people about knowing and experiencing Jesus Christ.  Thank you for partnering with us see faith steps like these turn into stories of new life!

See the video.

Bringing God into the Negative

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During our national conference this month in Ft. Collins, we gathered with thousands of our fellow Cru staff members to reflect on God’s Word spoken to us by various leaders.  Thank you so much for praying for the Lord to meet with us and for our travels!

One of our favorite speakers was Ney Bailey.  Ney has been a full time staff member with Campus Crusade since 1961!  That’s almost 55 years of serving the Lord!  Back then there were only a couple hundred staff members in total with Cru, and Ney was among the first few dozen single women to join.

here is Ney Bailey's message we heard at the conference

“When we encounter a situation or a person who brings hurt into our life, it’s quite a challenge to switch gears from being hurt to blessing God and even blessing the person who hurt us.  Our feelings and God’s Word do not always coincide,” said Ney.

After Ney survived the Big Thompson River flood in 1976 – a catastrophic flash flood that occurred a short distance from a ranch where she and seven friends (all 7 were swept away and perished in the flood) had been attending a Cru women’s retreat – she wrote the book Faith is Not a Feeling – Choosing to Take God at His Word.

Here is the message Ney brought to us at our conference.   You can watch the whole thing on video.

Almost daily we have things happen to us that can tend to bring up negative, ugly responses from our hearts.  Choosing to to thank God in all circumstances and believe Him to move forward through hurt or disappointment, we bring God into the negative!   Drop us a line and let us know how the Lord uses this in your life.