Discipling the next generation
Campbell alumni Andrew and Laura Kate Lupton had thought about doing missions work in Latin America as a married couple years down the road. But things lined up in such a way, they say, that they needed to go now.
Andrew Lupton ’08 MBA met Laura Kate Harvey ’04 while playing mud volleyball at Campbell University. He was in the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business’ 3/2 program, and she was a piano pedagogy major. She also was Presbyterian, she loved bluegrass music and she had a heart for Latin America. “That was right up my alley,” said Andrew, who’s originally from Clyde, N.C. They married in 2005.
After Andrew finished his MBA from Campbell in 2008, the couple moved to St. Louis, Mo. There, Andrew earned his Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and Laura Kate taught music at an elementary school for three years. Then, they joined Global Youth & Family Ministries (GYFM), a church-planting organization, and were based in Cary, N.C., where Laura Kate grew up attending Peace Presbyterian Church.
Now, this month, Andrew, Laura Kate and their 1-year-old son, Fox, are moving from Cary to Bogotá, Colombia, to begin a four-year commitment with GYFM. They’ll work with a church-planting missions team and serve missionary families.
Andrew and Laura Kate Lupton spoke to Campbell.edu about why they’re moving to Colombia, how they ended up in missions and how Campbell prepared them for it. The following is an edited transcript.
What will you do in Colombia?
Andrew: GYFM’s mission is to serve the global church by engaging the emerging generation with the gospel. For us, what that looks like is that we are going to be more or less youth pastors. We’ll be the primary resources for the missionary kids we have stationed throughout Latin America. We’ll visit them; disciple them; host them in Colombia; take them on mission trips -- things that will happen to quote, unquote normal kids in a church’s youth program in the States, except we’ll be pulling that off on an international level. We chose to base ourselves in Bogotá, Colombia, because it’s a strategic place to minister to the next generation. It has a tremendously young demographic, and there are opportunities to work with university students. They also have particular music needs that Laura Kate is well equipped to meet.
What are those music needs?
Laura Kate: Our team is working on planting five churches there. One of the biggest challenges they face is not having people who are comfortable leading music. Instead of having worship leaders, they have a glory box. You plug in the number of the hymn, and the box plays a synthesized version. For a lot of people, and definitely for young people, that’s not attractive. One of our team’s visions is to start a music school there. The idea is that we’ll train nationals who are in these churches to read music, play music, and eventually write their own music that’s more representative of their culture.
How did the move to Colombia come about?
Andrew: We both had individually romanticized about doing missions in Latin America and thought that was something we would do as a married couple later. But things lined up in a way that it was clear to us that we needed to go to Latin America now.
Laura Kate: GYFM puts on a conference at Ridge Haven every summer. Andrew had worked part time there since he was a student at Campbell. During his last semester at seminary, he was offered a full-time job at Ridge Haven. Before we took the job, we prayed that we felt like this was where God was leading us, but if He had another plan, to make it clear to us. God did just that. It became obvious that the job wasn’t the right fit, and that next day, the man who is now our team leader with GYFM contacted Andrew about this other opportunity. Our gifts and passions fit perfectly with the needs of our missions team, and we also have a heart for Third Culture Kids, a particular group of people that we are going to be ministering to.
Who are Third Culture Kids, and why do you have a heart for them?
Laura Kate: I began to work at Ridge Haven during the summers with Andrew after we married. We staffed a youth program for missionary kids. Another term for them is Third Culture Kids -- anybody who is growing up in a country different than the one on their passports. We got to see a lot of the benefits and challenges these kids faced. They tend to be culturally sensitive; and in a rapidly globalized world, these are the people we need as leaders. But there are challenges. All adolescents are asking big questions like Where do I fit? Where do I belong? What do I believe? These questions are made more difficult when you don’t know where home is. Some Third Culture Kids think they are going through this unique experience and nobody can identify with them. We saw some sad stories of these kids falling through the cracks. That’s when we started to say, “OK. We want to support missionaries planting churches around the world by being a resource for their families.”
Andrew: And some of what I learned at Covenant Theological Seminary about God’s heart for the next generation was compelling. Usually in the church, you hear people talk about youth ministry as if it were a stepping stone into real-world adult ministry. But if we’re not reaching the next generation, then we’re missing about half of God’s mission.
What have you learned about how to reach the next generation?
Andrew: We’re learning that you can’t just throw a program at young people.
Laura Kate: Yeah, it’s not a formula. If anything, the next generation is relational. So what we actually do to disciple young people will look different based on the needs and personality of each individual. There will be a lot of listening and just being present in their life. And something that we have seen to be effective is to get these kids together. No one can identify with growing up between cultures, except someone else growing up between cultures. So some of the things we’ll do will be short-term, intensive ministry events where we bring the kids together. We’ll play games, study the Bible and let them listen to each other’s stories.
Why Latin America?
Andrew: That was the first place I went outside of the States. I fell in love with Latino culture. I think we both thought, when we were in Latin America, “This feels like home.”
Laura Kate: I spent a summer abroad between freshman and sophomore year in Paraguay. I loved the culture, the people and the language.
How has Campbell helped prepare you for what you'll do in Colombia?
Andrew: Campbell’s business school gave me a good framework. I learned how institutions work and how to manage people, and it was through that process that I fell in love with pastoring people. I stuck around and got the MBA because I had seen a lot of pastors mismanage resources, both financial and human. I wanted to be someone who could serve the church by being an effective and efficient manager. To learn how to shepherd people, I went to seminary.
Laura Kate: As far as being prepared to teach in a cross-cultural music school, I was given the tools to do that at Campbell. My education in music was fantastic. I saw the importance of one generation pouring into the next generation; and a lot of professors, especially those in the music department, modeled how to do that. I experienced a lot of patience and gentleness, and I find myself trying to emulate them when I’m teaching music.
What do you hope the kids you work with will take away from you?
Laura Kate: Ultimately, the gospel and the fact that life is hopeless without Christ, but with Christ there is great hope.
Andrew: If we see that God is transforming the lives of the kids we are working with, that’s a success.
What do you hope you'lll take from the experience?
Andrew: That we’re thriving as a family and that we couldn’t see ourselves doing anything else.
Laura Kate: I also hope that we have somehow helped encourage and strengthen missionary families.
You’re going there to serve other families. How will you keep your own family healthy?
Laura Kate: We’re making that a huge priority. Our team leader in Bogotá has told us that one of the best, most effective ministry tools we’ll have is existing as a functional, godly family. We’ll have people there who will encourage us in that. I know there’ll be times when it’s tempting to work too much and neglect our own needs. We have put ourselves under wise counsel.
How do you know you’re making the right decision?
Andrew: Our philosophy is that we’re going to keep going through doors until God shuts one.
Laura Kate: Also, as we prayed and thought through this, we had a lot people whom we respected counsel us say they thought it was a good fit. Internally, we felt God’s call; externally, we had practical things that confirmed that for us.
Andrew: That’s made it easy to sell all your stuff, move in with your in-laws temporarily and turn down really good pastoral jobs. It’s actually made it much easier than it should be.
Editor's Note: Follow the Luptons in Bogotá, Colombia, on their blog.
Photos by Bennett Scarborough | Interview conducted by and edited by Cherry Crayton, Digital Content Coordinator
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