2003 began with us doubling the size of our staff. We went from one to two full time staff members. Brad Cardwell joined the team after a series of meetings. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted Brad to join us, but that was only because I didn’t want to be held responsible for messing up his life. We still didn’t know if this whole idea was actually going to work. However, we both came to an agreement that God was calling him to do this, and we stepped out on faith once again. Kent Jones was around as well that year, but he was technically working for The Go Foundation, a ministry partner. He spent the majority of that year on a bus with Mercy Me with The Go Show tour calling students to go global.
We also left our office at Lake Point Church that year and moved into an office building in Rockwall, Texas. Brad and I shared one small office in that building for half of the year, which was perfect for us since we only had one computer and two small desks. We didn’t even have a printer. One of my favorite memories of that year was checking Brad’s new iWitness email account since we only had the one computer. Sometimes I would answer his email for him when I knew the answer and it was quick. I would sign it Bradster and let him proof it before I sent it. I watched his eyes and when I saw him read his name, I would click send before he could do anything about it. I am still waiting for him to see the humor in that.
God also began rewarding our efforts that summer by sending us more students. When it was over, we had mobilized 60 students that year, almost double the number from our first two summers combined. But He didn’t make it easy. He had more lessons for us to learn and challenges for us to watch Him overcome.
When our staff thinks about 2003, we think about SARS. Maybe you remember something about that, maybe you don’t. It was basically the Swine Flu of 2003, but it was almost exclusively isolated in Asia. While no big deal to most of the Western world, it became a huge factor for a young ministry preparing to send teams to Asia. As the summer drew close, we began to realize that our team headed to East Asia needed to be relocated. With about a month before departure, we were introduced to some M’s in Thessaloniki, Greece that were willing and able to host our team on such short notice. Looking back at the end of that summer, it was interesting to see all the similarities in that team and the small team Paul led in Acts 16 and 17. Some of those similarities are better left unwritten, and I’m sure that team would agree.
After finally getting the college team settled, SARS showed up in Taiwan, where one of our high school teams was scheduled to serve. (This team, was actually first recruited to serve in Russia, but were moved when authorities in that area of Russia closed some doors.) With a little over three weeks left, we made the call to move this team as well. Once again, God connected us with an M who was just crazy enough to say yes to hosting this team in Cologne, Germany. And when I say crazy, what I mean is he was in the process of moving his family to Cologne. He moved to Cologne the same week that our team showed up.
This was such a huge lesson for us regarding the sovereignty of God. Russian authorities and respiratory viruses are all at His disposal to accomplish His purposes. He used all of that and more to connect us with a new friend in Germany. In fact, our JSI program was named after this M partner, and we still work closely with him today. But that part of the story will come in the next few weeks, as the countdown to our 10th Anniversary Celebration continues. I hope you will tune in next week as we continue to demonstrate this clear and constant theme: God has faithfully sustained, grown, and developed this ministry every step of the way.
At some point during this decade it seems that most of our pictures from 2003 were misplaced. We do have a good selection from our Japan high school team (Japan was not affected significantly by SARS). You can view those pics right here.
In addition, we thought it might be fun to show you some of the logos and artwork we have used over the past 10 years as well. Feel free to comment on these gems as you view them here.