Friday, November 18, 2011

Equipping to Serve

RUF's ministry model is based around this idea:

"Reaching students for Christ and equipping them to serve."

This means a couple of things. It means that first and foremost, we are seeking to build relationships with students that glorify and promote Christ in their lives. We do this through large group, small groups, and one-on-ones and it is an aspect of our ministry that is relational and powerful. When I was a student in RUF, this had enormous impact on my life as a growing believer and as a student in a new and unfamiliar environment being away from the lifelong influences that traditionally provided this instruction and support.

But the beautiful thing about what RUF does it that it does not simply seek to convert or encourage students in the faith and then stop there. They are reaching students for a reason - because RUF believes that part of being in Christ means living life in a new way. It means being aware of the needs of people around you - and it means giving and sacrificing our time and energy to serve on our campuses, in our churches, and in our communities. For some, that might mean that they step up to serve in their fraternities or sororities and seek to love the campus and the student body by serving in those leadership roles. For others, it may mean volunteering with a homeless ministry or tutoring kids after school as a way of serving and loving the community. Still others might be led to make greater commitments to serving in their local churches by helping out with the youth group or serving in the music ministry or teaching Sunday School. For me, it meant moving to Seattle to continue the work of RUF and to serve the students at the UW and the city of Seattle! It looks markedly different for each member of the church body - and that's good! It is so important that each person serves in a different capacity because there are so many different but essential needs to be met. The point that RUF seeks to drive home though is that you should be doing something. It encourages students to find the ways in which they can find opportunity to serve in whatever capacity they find opportunity for. College is such a pivotal age for this and it is important to be exposed to a lot of different opportunities for service and to build habits to participate in these ways.

Last week, our RUF participated with a ministry out of a local church (Greenlake) called "Good Friday." This is a once-a-month ministry that Greenlake has that brings warm meals and the Gospel to a part of town along a road called Aurora. Aurora used to be part of the main highway that went through Seattle from North to South before the interstate was built. After I-5 moved to town, much of Aurora's formerly booming business and hotel industry declined and deteriorated. These hotels and motels in North Seattle are now infamous for being a constant center for crime, drug activity, and prostitution. 16 students showed up on a Friday night in the cold to come and prepare and distribute meals to the residents of the motels along Aurora and offer them a friendly conversation and an invitation to church. This is an awesome example of how the Gospel is at work in the lives of our students and their willingness and desire to serve in the city and to try to meet the spiritual and physical needs that exist around them. I'm excited to see the ways that the Lord uses these desires to bring life and love into the hearts of our students and into the communities in which we live and serve!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Analog Groups

I've been in a lot of small group Bible studies over the years and have studied a wide variety of topics and books. A large number of these studies have spent time discussing the epistles of the New Testament - Ephesians and Galatians I've studied countless times and in countless contexts. Some of these studies have been led by others, some of these studies have been led by me. Other groups have looked at the Sermon on the Mount (hollaback to freshman bible study at OU), the Parables of Jesus, or other topics from various authors. However, it's probably been since early high school that I studied the book of Acts in depth (and in a Sunday school class, if I recall correctly).

The book of Acts is in the New Testament and writes largely about the apostles and the early church after the ascension of Jesus. What an essential book to study, right? This quarter, one of our senior students, Tom, has been leading a coed "analog group" on the book of Acts that I've been able to attend. It's been really great to revisit this book and to have an in-depth discussion about the things that were happening in the early church. Tom does a great job of getting our minds working and of also seeking to find ways to think about how to apply this word to our own lives and to the modern church. Here's a nice picture of us, followed by an "awkward" picture, as per OURUF tradition.
They're learning.

At UWRUF, we call our small groups "Analog Groups." This is to differentiate these groups as face-to-face relational groups rather than digital relationship groups. The philosophy is that we spend so much time alone or interacting with our technology that we often forget to spend time with other real people. We see this as essential to building community and we see small groups as essential to building a healthy large group. Hence, our groups are analog. No gadgets, no gizmos. Food, Fellowship, Fun.

The students that have come to this study are wrestling with these things and especially with questions like "How do we, as college students, share the Gospel and love the world through our limited means and limited time and energy?" It's been great to see the way these students are growing and exploring this book and seeking to translate knowledge into wisdom and passivity into action. I'm so glad to be able to spend time with these students once a week and work through these ideas with them.

Monday, November 14, 2011

When it Rains, It Pours

With the advent of winter and sunset by 5pm, I'm slowly having to adjust to living in a northern climate as well as find a way to welcome the gray skies and puddled sidewalks. Since I spent the summer in a drought and didn't see a drop of rain for four consecutive months, the rain is still a welcome friend - which is fortunate since I get to spend the next 6-8 months with rain clouds as a constant companion. From what the natives tell me, their summer came late this year, but fortunately for me, it's meant that fall has been graceful and uncommonly beautiful. This has meant plenty of sunny days to break up the rain and warmer temperatures than they're used to for this time of year. As someone who is learning the ropes in a new place and missing the sunniness of my hometown, these are things that I have been exceedingly thankful for, as the weather seems to be showing me grace by helping me adjust slowly rather than having to quit the sun cold turkey.

On Friday, however, the rains hit in full force. As it was Veterans Day, the schools out here actually had a vacation day - so we had made plans to take full advantage of this day off by playing touch football on campus with students. (We made it touch instead of tackle so the girls would come! Staci, Sydney, Kati and Allison were brave enough to come out and play with the boys!) In corresponding with the date - 11/11/11 - we had kickoff at 11:11:11 a.m. Right about the same time the rain began.

We played for about an hour and a half in the pouring rain. It was absolutely the most fun that I've had in awhile, and reminded me a lot of the snow football nights we had at OU during college. When the raindrops began to fall, we all seemed to make a sort of silent agreement that we were going to play on and resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd be soaked by the end. Usually the rain in Seattle settles for a light drizzle, but about halfway in we were caught in an absolute downpour. With resiliency and lightheartedness at the fact we could hardly throw or catch the ball due to slipperiness, and running in the mud was basically out of the question without biting the dust, we made it through what felt like four quarters before retiring to a warm lunch at Chipotle. Here's a picture of the 17 or so of us that battled it out despite the conditions and had an absolute blast doing it.
This picture doesn't quite do justice to how soaked and muddy we all were, or to how soaked and muddy the field was, but hopefully it gives you the idea.

It's been such a blast getting to know these students and do fun things with them. More stories soon!