Back into the Stream

August 2020 Update

If you read nothing else, I want to make sure you see THANK YOU! I am honored to get to do this job and for the support you've shown that makes it possible! Every month I'll send updates that capture a little of what we've been up to. I hope they encourage you as you see how God has used your generosity to bless students on the college campus!

Returning to Campus Missions

When I made the tough decision to leave vocational ministry in 2016 to go into teaching high school, though it was one of the hardest seasons of my life, I remember getting there and pretty immediately having the sensation of being a fish that had finally been put into water. So much of the school setting--its odd balance of regimented and completely chaotic, team-driven but very independent, crazy fun but still plenty goal-oriented--just fit. I loved teaching at Heritage so much! So in looking ahead to this year's return to campus missions, as my excitement about the opportunity deepened, I wondered if I'd have a similar realization the minute I stepped into the rush of it all: What if I'm a fish who just jumped out of the water?

A Deeper Look at the Old Testament

In my first weeks back, my boss and dear friend, Brandon, invited me to co-teach the Old Testament class he leads our apprentices through every year. Its primary content (on top of reading through the entirety of the Old Testament) comes from Regent College's Old Testament Foundations audio class taught by Iain Provan, supplemented with an introductory textbook covering the form, scholarship, and literary criticism of the Old Testament. This class was a major catalyst in my newly maturing faith as a college student. It has continued to challenge and encourage me as I've returned to it over the years; and like any really good class material, even in my 5th or 6th time going through it, it is still driving me in new ways to think more deeply about who God is, who I am, and how I am to live in the world around me. No doubt, the depth in this experience comes just as much from the earnest questions of the sweet group of apprentices we have this year and the nuanced teaching Brandon can do after more than 20 years of study and vocational ministry! I've loved digging into the important questions like How do we approach the law God gave in Deuteronomy to a specific people in a specific time now, as 21st century Christians? with this group. They study hard and pray for God to teach them through the process, and we are all made better by it! Our students benefit from leadership that lives out the conviction that we are all still learning, all still being shaped by God as he teaches us more and more who he is.

Welcoming the Class of 2024!

And speaking of students, they are back! School is in session! Usually this time of year, we are meeting HUNDREDS of freshman and transfer students, spending hours upon hours with our student leaders leading social events and games, coordinating schedules around other organizations' and the university's events, and just generally drowning in the tsunami of August campus life. 2020 has--I'm sure you're keenly aware--been utterly different from the norm. There's more story to tell here, but let me just skip to the punch line: Even in a pandemic, God is at work! 

Last week felt like what the disciples experienced in John 21 when they all went out to fish and there was just not. a. fish. to. be. found. But then, a voice called out to them, 

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

For this semester, no student organizations can hold any in-person events of any size per UTD regulations, and UTD has chosen to limit their own events to online only, so figuring out ways to meet new students has been a challenge. Unfortunately, virtual events simply do not suffice for getting any significant number of students connected. We encouraged our students to simply BE on campus! To go walk around and be someone who waves, says hi, invites a new person into a conversation, and just shows that there is friendship to be made out there! 

Socially distant worship after our corefa (student leader) training!
The first few nights what we heard back was that it seemed there was not a soul to be found. But what we saw is that our students believe that God really cares about the freshmen who are coming to this campus and that he wants them to have relationships. So they were persistent in trying to live out that calling to love others! They "threw their nets" in new ways, getting connected to people through Instagram and email and all kinds of resourceful venues. Toward the end of the week, they had met so many new people that, when they would meet up to play games on the lawn or just sit in a shaded spot and talk to new friends, they were having to move further and further out of the common gathering spaces in order to keep the groups small and maintain COVID-appropriate distances between each other. (And yes, they're all sporting their cool new masks for hours at a time even in this hot Texas summer!) In the end, our students have met more new people than our whole organization could personally get to know. I and my fellow staff members find ourselves looking at it all and saying, like Peter, "It is the Lord!" We are so thankful for the affirmation that yes, God is still at work here on this campus!

This IS Water

So in these 3 weeks, God has taken my fish metaphor and shifted the image a bit. College ministry doesn't feel like teaching high school English. It feels a little more like swimming upstream. But it isn't  dry land! It is water through-and-through. And you know what? As cheesy as this metaphor is, God has used it and reminded me that he made the salmon, too. So I'm happily jumping back into the stream God put me in because (for you David Foster Wallace fans) this is water.

Thank you all for your support and love the last few months! I have been, again and again, blown away by your generosity. My prayer is that God is blessing that and growing his kingdom through it! To my teacher friends: You all have been in my prayers these last few months and especially now at the beginning of school! We are ALL in our different ways swimming upstream right now, I think. Please reach out if there's any way I can ever help or pray or encourage you.

Prayer Requests

Please be in prayer for the students who are coming back to campus and for our student leaders who are trying to build relationships with them. Please pray for health for them all! And finally, please pray fervently for our staff and student officers as we try to navigate the university's changing guidance, for a lot of discernment on how to balance looking out for the social, emotional, and spiritual health of our students while maintaining health and safety-consciousness in this time.

Much love always,




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