Q: Why did you feel compelled to write this book? How do you hope it will serve others?
A: We found many of our peers coming out of college with high hopes and lots of dreams. But those quickly shipwrecked on college debt, homeownership, and diapers. As we came back to the U.S. to visit while living overseas, we found many friends here trying to life a life that matters for God’s kingdom while living in the sucking of routine, minutiae, and “busy” activity. They know they don’t need to try to “keep up with the Joneses.” But everyone is asking how do we live out God’s mission when we are the Joneses, when we are middle-class Americans?
So we wrote the book for two audiences. We wanted to offer our perspective from our time overseas—our journey back into U.S. culture—to both twenty-somethings getting into careers and family and also to students, to warn them about the coming challenges. For both, we avoid simple answers, but share our story and struggles to live out Jesus’ intense teachings here and now.
Q: What would you say to a college student who struggles to see how they can make a difference from the middle of Wisconsin–or even feels tempted to drop out of school and run to Africa?
A: First of all, we were those people! Chrissy wanted to run off to a war zone. I had a scholarship that I didn’t want to lose. And I knew if I went overseas, I’d never come back soon enough to finish school and keep the scholarship! So we are right there with you.
Your college years are the season of the greatest amount of personal definition, of change, of calling. So give yourself fully to that process and enjoy it. And then once you get a sense of what needs to change in the world, the best thing you can do as a college student is to influence other college students, raising other people’s awareness and getting them fired up to make a difference, too. That influence on other students can lead to decades of work on issues that matter rather than being wasted on selfish pursuits.
And I’d also point out that you need to have something to offer people in hard places. In our years overseas, we were able to offer literacy classes in Spanish because we were fluent, substitute teaching because we’d learned leadership skills as camp counselors, and microloans because we’d gotten MBAs in International Economic Development at Eastern University. People in hard places need doctors and nurses, engineers and educators. You need some real skills in order to really help.
Q: What’s the most extraordinary thing you’ve learned through the writing of this book?
A: Inertia is a terrible thing. So many people in the U.S. are stuck and unhappy. They’re not living a life they enjoy and they’re not helping others, either. And yet they don’t change. They resist changing something they don’t like because they like change even less. I’m amazed at how risk-averse and change-averse a lot of people are. I’m chewing on what that means and how to serve them.
Recently, I spoke on a campus and asked a thousand students what was keeping them from giving their whole lives for God’s global mission. Over 20% who responded mentioned fear. And another 10% said they didn’t feel like they’re good enough. These were almost all Christian students. If 10% think they’re not good enough to serve and 20% are afraid, what does their God look like? There seems to be a lack of awareness and acceptance of grace and some very anemic faith.
And as we were writing the book we realized there are not easy answers to these questions. So we’ve carried on with a new blog about how to live out Jesus’ radical teachings here in the U.S. The journey continues!
Q: What kind of feedback or stories have you heard from readers so far?
A: On our Facebook page, we’re gathering together a group of people to try to live more Amazing Days. I’ve found that there are some people just waiting for an excuse to live a better life, who are not so change-averse. That’s really encouraging.
And we’re thrilled that our book and blog are giving people a little kick in the pants, to notice what’s already good and amazing in their lives, as well as to take steps to help people around them and in the hard places.
You can see some of what people have been doing in this recent blog post.
About the Jeske’s….Christine (Facebook, Twitter) teaches for Eastern University and is pursuing a Ph.D. in cultural Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin. She also wrote Into the Mud: Inspiration for Everyday Activists. She speaks and blogs about development, justice, and faith at Into the Mud. Adam (Facebook, Twitter) serves as the director of new media for InterVarsity and helps to lead Urbana. He previously contributed to Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication. He blogs about communication, culture, and leadership at Executing Ideas, and speaks frequently, too.