Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Another Year Bites the Dust

Last night was our End-of-Year Party for the UTD ministry, and tonight is our final meeting with the leaders. This group of students has been such a delight to work with, and I'm sad to see so many of them moving on to their next endeavors. At the same time, though, we have an incredible group of younger students growing up to replace them, so I'm very optimistic about the coming years! God continues to bless this community.
These are the corefas that Peter and I mentored this year. What an amazing bunch! Not only are they great ministers, but they are so kind to us and so much fun to be around. 
Thanks for your investments in reaching UTD students this year. At our last Friday Night Fellowship, we had open mic sharing about what God has been doing in our community this year. If you have time to listen to it, I know you'll be encouraged:

Last Friday Night Sharing (Part 2 is a lot more personal, but if you have time there's a Part 1 as well.)

Student Testimony
This month our testimony comes from Richland College.
Catherine Long (Sophmore, Richland College, Echocardiography)
"God has used the community in FOCUS to make me a better friend to those around me. Throughout high school, I struggled with making genuine and lasting friendships. I had certain people I would spend time with, but there was no depth to our relationships. By the time I graduated, I sadly realized that I had no peer-friends who cared about what I was going through. In addition to this, I found it hard to empathize with those around me. It was a difficult experience that taught me the value of true, real friendship. During my first semester of college, I was involved in a car accident with my parents and three younger siblings. Those next two months were some of the darkest times of my life. I recall sitting in the emergency room and my small group leader, Nicki, calling to see if I was okay. I can’t remember what either one of us said, but I do remember in that moment feeling loved and cared for in a profound way. It was so precious to me. After some time in the ministry, my youngest sister, Emily, told me that she didn’t know what healthy friendships looked like until she saw how I interacted with my co-fa. God was shaping the kind of friend He wanted me to be, and through it, He was impacting the people around me! I am so excited to go on this journey that God has called me to: loving and serving those around me like Christ!"

Finishing up Christian History Class

I've spent a significant portion of my time this semester working my way through 2,000 years of Christian History with our apprentices and with our 1st & 2nd-year staff ministers. We used Sarah Williams' History of Christianity I & II as the foundation for our discussions, along with other readings and activities. I think at first those young ministers struggled with the material because they couldn't think of anything to DO with it. It's always a temptation to want immediate practical applications for what we study. But as we approached our current day, we all began to see how these things fit together, and how our own story is just a part of a much bigger heritage.

I grew up in a tradition that didn't value that heritage very much at all. We talked a lot about getting the church back to the 1st century, but had mostly disdain for centuries 2-18. In fact, I'm not sure that we thought there were actually any true Christians in the church until we came along in the early 1800's! :) It has been powerful in my own life to learn about my older brothers and sisters who have passed the batons of true faith down through the ages. True, there are many stories of those batons being dropped in tragic, and often infuriating, ways. But for each of those, there are stories of others who came and picked them back up to run faithfully again the race marked out for us.

Our Christian family has engaged so many different cultures and languages and time periods and peoples. We've rethought our faith over and over, finding new, and often better, ways of thinking about God and ourselves and this world. More than anything for me, this study has been humbling. I realize the tremendous debt of gratitude I owe to so many who did their best without so many of the advantages I have. They did their best, even when their best wasn't very good. And God, with grace overflowing, did what He does best--He made their paltry efforts good enough, and He allowed the leaven of the gospel to continue to work its way through the dough of this world. I can't wait to see what this place is like when the Master Baker is done with it.

And something funny to end with...

The seniors at UTD made a video to thank the staff where they imitate us. The first half is funny, then there's a different senior sharing about each of us. It's pretty amusing.

Developing Our Pastoral Team

We are back in August and ramping up for the school year! We have an amazing pastoral staff, and an outstanding group of student leaders. At...