A Leader Among Leaders

Shortly after I began seeing an uptick in student participation at University Baptist Church, I asked a core of students to begin working with me.  Several students responded to my invitation and began leading campus ministry.  Jamil established herself as a leader among student leaders.
Jamil led fellow students using a wealth of personal and professional experience.  An alumna of the University of Maryland, she was active in a student outreach ministry.  A clearly pronounced commitment to evangelism emboldened her to speak for Jesus on campus.  Other students began seeing her witness and followed suit.
They followed her to University Baptist Church and began advancing a vision to see all peoples of the world know, worship and grow (KWaG) as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Students followed her in becoming mentors as she co-chaired the Kids Hope USA program.  MSU Spartans followed her in creating a series of video testimonies about their dreams for the campus.  Jamil coached some of the nervous people and gave them the strength to create personal expressions of faith.  Click here to see Jamil tell her own story:
Click here for video testimony


My own faith was strengthened when I sat in one of Jamil’s political science lectures.  Voter fraud, a history of the electoral process and civic literacy were some of the topics covered.  More than a dozen students attended the class and we all gleaned from her lecture.  I was reminded that we need strong believers in every area of influence, not just congregational ministry.  Jamil is also a leader among leaders in political science.

Jamil has continued to establish herself as a leader among student ministry leaders.  Shortly after I began seeing an uptick in student participation at University Baptist Church, I asked a core of students to work with me.  Jamil, and her peers at MSU responded, and
is the result.  

Interruptions & Opportunities

Mornings are precious times for me.  I enjoy silence and solitude in thought, reading and study.  This summer, a  bright morning was interrupted by the doorbell.  “Can your son come out and play?”  To some parents, a child playing is a welcome break but for me and Naudia playmates means increased vigilance.  We need to know where he is and with whom he’s playing.

I didn’t know the inquiring child, nor his parents, very well.  Before I could tell him I was busy, our son awakened and zoomed around the corner to greet his classmate.  Solitude evaporating, I realized God’s work in the interruption when I asked, “Do your parents know where you are?”  His response revealed an opportunity to get to know my neighbors.

Image result for fresh fruit
Grabbing some fresh fruit as gifts, I dressed and asked the child to walk me around the corner to meet his parents.  Having met the parents, our son asked, “Since you know them, can I play over here?”   A host of responses flooded my mind: ‘I just met them but I don’t know them; I came over here so they’d know I was safe not to find out if they were safe; you were just asleep 15 minutes ago and now see an opportunity to get away from my watchful eye…”  Uncharacteristically, I agreed and walked home.

Uncharacteristically, the boys came back a little while later.  Their interest in playing at our house cheered me.  Our son’s playmate also brought his little sister to hang out.  My plans for the morning changed (again) and I began cooking breakfast for all of the children.  We had complimentary Faithfest tickets, and I texted our neighbors to find out if we could bring their children along.

It wasn’t until we arrived at the concert that I realized the tickets were per vehicle, not per person.  Our neighbors entered the same way we did: by the generosity of my Spiritual Director at the St. Francis Retreat Center.

Spiritual Direction requires solitude, study and silence: all forsaken on a bright morning.  The Spirit directed me to waffles, carnival food, great music and the best two-hand-touch game all year.  We had a great time at Faithfest!

Today, on a bright morning I write, of interrupted solitude, in silence and stillness.  Interruptions  aren’t so bad.  Because of a good neighbor, and a great Spiritual Director, I see interruptions as opportunities.

Making Lemonade

Joe* studies at Michigan State Univeristy and feels overwhelmed.
When our son’s classmate came by for a visit, Joe walked him down the block.  I offered snacks and started to gather ingredients.  Everyone watched with puzzled looks as I started making lemonade.  “Where is the container of concentrate?” they asked.  When I told them I was making drinks from scratch, they looked in amazement.
I look in amazement at college students.  Joe is studying human biology, works and goes to school.  His surpise at lemonade from scratch is matched by my respect for his efforts.  He’s a fifth year senior, earning money, passing classes and making plans for graduation.  With so much going on, I asked, “What’s the most challenging thing you’re doing right now?” 
“The most difficult thing I do is attend class in huge lecture halls.  I went to a small high school and even now as a senior, I still feel lost in a sea of students.  Entering those big rooms can be overwhelming sometimes.”

I prayed for Joe and showed everyone how to make lemonade from scratch.  My brief encounter marked me because of communication.

Prayer is communication with God.  At prayer, I was allowed to see a student know, worship and grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Joe knew to pray and put his trust in Jesus.  Worship is making much of God. God invites us in
to cast our cares, including lecture hall anxiety, on Him because He cares for us.  Joe grew in knowledge by making lemonade for the first time.  
He studies human biology at Michigan State and feels overwhelmed sometimes.  Lemonade and prayer helped him in unexpected ways.  One of many students at Michigan State University is growing in his faith.

*Joe has been used instead of student’s real name.

Students on A Mission

William stared out of the window in disbelief. “Why are the houses in such disrepair?” He felt the weight of his decision to go on a mission trip. I knew my answer mattered. After a quick prayer, I said, “The best answers to your question come from the residents. Would you like to talk to some of the home owners?”

We learned that many communities in Youngstown, OH tell of Black Monday. On September 19, 1977 (5) five steel mills closed on the same day. Families were left scrambling for answers. The result has been a decades-long recovery effort in places like Youngstown. Change and hope have come through the efforts of mission trip partners like Neighborhood Ministries and Heart Reach.

At Neighborhood Ministries, an after-school program was offered in community centers. Children gathered for games, snacks, homework help, and a Bible lesson. Our team helped in each area. We were also asked to bring content to enrich the children. Each child learned how to write “Jesus” in Chinese characters. French worship songs filled the air as children clapped and danced to the glory of God.

Heart Reach is a Christ-centered ministry offering lunchtime programming for public school students. Skits, snacks, and video presentations were offered during an elementary school lunch hour. Thanks to a provision in the Ohio State constitution, buses can pick the children up, provide lunchtime biblical education and drop them off at school to finish the day. Churches closest to the schools serve as hosts for the midday gatherings. One of the churches is Metro Assembly, led by Paris and Al Yanno. Paris is also the Executive Director of Heart Reach.

Each team mission member visited local churches, partnered with the YMCA and slept on couches in a mission center. A communal kitchen allowed friendships to form over food and conversation. We even doubled as unexpected plumbers when a hose cracked at 2 am. All in a day’s work for students on a mission.

A mission to see students of the world know, worship, and grow (KWaG) as disciples of Jesus Christ was accomplished. Youngstown was one of many examples of the Holy Spirit’s work among college students.

Getting A Ride

Getting a ride is a delicate thing.  Sometimes the person taking you is late; sometimes “gas money” is required; sometimes we get the ride there but not the ride back.  Venturing out of the house depending on a ride is risky business.

Shannon ventured out each week, depending on a ride.  Sometimes her ride was late; sometimes her ride stopped for gas; sometimes her return ride didn’t work out.  Nevertheless, she kept coming to church.

Shannon caught rides so she could study scripture, complete baptism requirements and eat the graduation cake prepared for her senior class. But then, Shannon found a car.

Now she is giving rides because she knows getting a ride is a delicate thing. She’s promising to take people where they need to go; she’s donating, rather than demanding, gas money; she’s tender in offering rides back.  She understands because she’s been there.

Shannon claims the name of One who understands because He’s been there.  Jesus knows that being human is a delicate thing.  Sometimes we’re late, demanding and lacking follow-through.  The more we live, the more we see we need a Savior.  Jesus is the help we need.

Shannon ventures out each week depending on Jesus.  He’s on time, is generous and keeps His promises. Shannon is on time, generous and keeps her promises. Her Christianity is demonstrated in helping people get rides.  She is giving rides because she remembers getting a ride is a delicate thing.