Monday, August 29, 2016

One Week In!

Happy Monday!

I hope things are going well for you all, and that you're remaining cool in this insane heat.

To give some quick updates and flash through the summer...

Rachael moved out to Altoona in June which has been awesome. This is the first time since I graduated that we've been in the same area longer than a week. I have spent the majority of my summer preparing for both our wedding and the school year. I've been working on lesson plans, activities, big events, and more. In July I also went to CIY MIX with First Church's jr high kids which was a blast. I didn't realize how much I missed a week of high output!

Now for the nitty gritty!

This past Monday classes started at Penn State. Our first "meeting" was on Tuesday on campus, and we just got some pop and chips and hung around playing board games. We had two new freshmen show up which was awesome getting to know them and playing Star Wars Risk with them. Rachael played Exploding Kittens with some of the girls and another guy.

Wednesday was spent preparing for the Activities Fair on campus. One Thursday rolled around it was non-stop for the majority of the day. We had the activities fair from 12-2, were getting all of our things to campus before that and setting up. During those two ours we gave away 100 bags to students full of awesome stuff, got 75 students to sign up for more info about CSF, and had countless more conversations and interactions with other students. After that I got to spend a good amount of time discerning the handwriting of 30+ students that wrote their information down and sent an in depth email to them all thanking them for coming out and letting know who we are and what we're planning on doing throughout the semester!

This weekend was a time to regroup, meet with some students, and just figure out what the attack plan for this week is going to be.

Tomorrow we're having our first official CSF which will be at the church where we'll be having a bonfire, short lesson and then just hanging out!

I want to thank you for all your support, prayer, emotional support, and anything else you may do, even just reading this. As always feel free to contact me at any time! And I promise that this year I will be keeping up to date with all these updates!


Monday, April 4, 2016

As the Semester winds down things pick up!

School is done!

For me at least. And by that I mean I’m done with my weekly assignments. I still have a massive research paper due at the end of the month, but I don’t have to read a book a week anymore which frees me up, a lot!

Well looking back, I’m ashamed to save I have no given an update in quite a while, all semester even! And I apologize for that. I don’t make excuses, only explain, and the reality is that first off, not a lot went on this semester until recently. Secondly, I have been busy with my own school work. I do recognize that I need to be better at time management, and hopefully for the remainder of the semester and going into the summer and next year I can do better! But enough of that, on to what’s been going on in Altoona!

As I said, not a lot has taken place over the past few months until recently. Our attendance has not been the greatest, we’ve been fighting uphill battles, and we’ve seen less and less commitment from students. But over the past few weeks a lot has begun to happen!

Students have been coming around more, even just to hang out and awesome relationships have begun to form! It’s been great getting to know the students that we have and their friends over the past few months. During this semester we’ve had three new students come check us out, and retained them. This is helping us figure out what sets us apart from other campus ministries, and I think the biggest difference is that we go deeper into biblical truths than other campus ministries. I can’t be sure of that because I have not attended other ministries, but from conversations with students and the aftermath of a lesson it definitely seems that is our niche. Most weeks after we get done they look at me with blank stares and simply say, “I need a week to digest all of that.” Yes, it’s nerdy of me to say, but I love those moments. Finding deeper biblical truths to share with others and having them need to chew on it for a week.

The past few weeks saw work really pick up, where we had a lot to plan and do. Last Tuesday CSF along with two other campus ministries hosted an open forum on campus. Our intention was to just answer questions that students had about Christianity, the Bible, and other faith related topics in order to promote healthy conversation on campus about these things. My two student leaders and myself organized the majority of the event and had another student help out with some tabling and promotion which was a real help! It was awesome watching our students step up and take charge of this and have some ownership over it! Our attendance for the event was about what we expected but lower than we planned for, which was fine. Promotion by the university was not entirely the best, but for what it was (an event planned by three guys in three weeks) it went incredibly well!

During the month of March also saw Spring Break and a mission trip back to Tennessee just like last year! We tried to get some of our students to go, but late planning led to none of them being able to go, so I tagged along with our Pitt campus ministry and it was a blast. On the way down we stopped in Grayson to pick up Rachael so she could tag along. While we were down there we worked with Empower Cocke County, a local ministry which will function as a resource center in the future. Our time there was great, cleaning the building, having times of fellowship, and exploring the local area. It was great getting to spend time with the Pitt group again after leaving them and seeing what’s been going on in their lives.

This semester our weekly IMPACT meetings have been going well. As I mentioned above we’ve been getting deep into different biblical truths and topics. We started off the semester with some more refined topics such as Christian maturity, why is there suffering, time management, work as worship, etc. Then we switched gears because one week I just felt like we needed to get back to the center: Christ. So we spent one week for about an hour and a half just talking about Jesus, our ideas of him, who he is and what he’s done. From there we moved to reconciliation, forgiveness, and spent two weeks on freedom in Christ. We went with a different direction for the first week and this is where things got incredibly deep. We spent a good amount of time talking about how we have freedom in Christ from our negative emotions: Anger, desire for retaliation, lust, coveting, jealousy, etc. This is when I had my students look at me and go, “I need a week.” The next week we talked about the other aspect of freedom which can be seen in 1 Corinthians 6.12, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. This obviously leads into the discussion on freedom in action, but a need for maturity in that. An especially important topic for college students.

In personal news, a lot has happened! If you received my January Newsletter you know that I’ve moved! The church here that CSF is partnered with and that I’m on staff with offered me free housing in the church’s office house which is right across the street from campus! So now I get to save a great deal of money by not having rent or from having to drive to campus every day, now I can just walk! This frees up a lot of money to help with a number of things: Getting settled in Pennsylvania with license, insurance, cellphone bill, starting to save up to pay off student loans, and saving up for my upcoming wedding! For those of you that don’t know, I got engaged! March 18th my fiancĂ© and I decided to go ahead and get married in September as opposed to waiting for May or June of 2017. We’re both really excited for this and even more excited to finally be near each other after 2 ½ years of being apart. The race begins for wedding planning, saving money, and looking for a place to live here in Altoona! Prayers, advice, and any help would be greatly appreciated!

But I think that’s all that I got from here in Altoona. I’ll be putting together a Newsletter today which will mostly be what I’ve put in here, but it’ll still be great! Thank you for all of your prayers and support. As always feel free to contact me at any time about anything!

Monday, February 1, 2016

And so February begins

For some reason February always seems like the longest month, despite it being the shortest.

Hope this finds all of you well today!

It's currently a comfortable 47 degrees today, yesterday it reached 60 here which was awesome! Although I was stuck inside all day attempting to understand C.S. Lewis, but it was still good!

Things have been going alright around here the past few weeks. Ministry itself is not always the easier job, and can lead to high amounts of stress, so I've been trying to find ways to relieve that stress that comes with the job. We're still working on that though.

Currently CSF is working on helping the Campus Activities Board with different events throughout the semester, just to be a blessing to campus. We have a couple things in mind that we shared with CAB, and they're looking like they could turn out well! We're thinking about providing food and coffee or tea for different events on campus, having a game night the week before spring break, helping sponsor different events that CAB is doing as well.

This past week at CSF we talked about "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The answer is simple enough, but not always easy to swallow. For the students that were there and the discussion that we had they were accepting of my point of view and the reasons that I see behind suffering in the world. This week I'm not entirely sure which topic we want to discuss, I've been doing a fair amount of research on cognitive cycles and how we as humans are wired so we could discuss how to maximize our time and turn work into worship. But I've also been doing research on capitalism and wrestling with how as Christians we should view it, if we should support it or not, and if this is an economic system that Christ would approve of, which of course would lead to the discussion of, "Is America a Christian nation?" which could quickly lead to come arguments. I'm prepared for both, I just need to flip a coin to decide which to do I guess.

This week I get to hold down the fort at the church office as well. The majority of our staff are on vacation this week, so the office will be sitting empty for most of the days.

Over this past week I was able to just hang out with a couple of students which was great, and really reaffirming of what I'm doing here. While I struggle with the stress of the job, it helps to be reassured that this is where God has called me to be and what he has called me to do.

Today I'm hoping to get my monthly Newsletter written and sent out, if you are interested in receiving a copy let me know!

Thanks for all you do and your prayers!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Happenings from Altoona!


Hope this finds you warm, unburied, and great! This past weekend we've had a good snowstorm come through, giving us at least 13 inches here! Other locations in Altoona had measurements up towards 20 inches.

Of course it's still winter time, and so the cold, and the snow has been around, keeping things interesting for us.

Over the past couple weeks nothing too out of the ordinary has gone one. We've had our usual CSF meeting on Tuesday and talked about Christian maturity and what that looks like. The reason for this discussion was because of what the semester will (hopefully) be bringing. We're continuing with our theme of Religion as a verb, how to proper do a Christ centered religion. Last semester we looked at the life of Jesus through the book of Luke, and this semester we're taking what we learned through viewing his interactions with people, and applying those to real world situations. In order to do this we will need maturity. We plan on discussing other religions, terrorism, sexuality, capitalism, mental illness, divorce, substance abuse. We don't know who is dealing with what, and so because of that we have to be mindful and mature in our discussions. This week we're approaching the topic of "Why do bad things happen to good people." I'm looking forward to talking about this because of just how often we deal with this question.

Tomorrow we're getting a men's Bible study under way which I'm dubbing "Bearded Bosses of the Bible." This week we're going to be looking at Noah, his life, what went on around him, what he did that we should emulate, and what we should take note of and avoid.

This semester during our Wednesday night Bible study at Church we're beginning to go through Galatians. We'll go through that at whatever pace we go at, be it a chapter, a passage, or a verse a week, and keep going through the following Epistles.

Today I got to meet with the Campus Activities Board (CAB) to discuss how CSF can partner with them to help sponsor or host different events throughout the semester. I came with a few idea's that they seemed to like, and I'm looking forward to what we can do together for the campus.

Other than that not much has been going on here. This semester I'm taking a class on C.S. Lewis's theological works which has been great so far. Two weeks ago I got to read the Screwtape Letters, my first time reading through them, and it really showed some insight into my own life and temptations that I face. Last week and this week I have to read Mere Christianity which is awesome, but also very time consuming. This is my second read of it, and I feel that I've grown intellectually and theologically since the last time that I've read it, so that this reading is done in a whole new light, one where I begin to wrestle a lot more with what Lewis wrote. Since this is Lewis telling what Christianity is (for lack of a better term), I think it'll add a lot more to the teaching aspects of what we're talking about this semester. Reasons why things the way they are in the world, how we should approach different topics, answering questions like "Why would God allow this to happen?"

But that's what we got here. Thank you for all your support, and please keep the ministry in prayer for us! We appreciate all you do!

Monday, January 18, 2016

MLK Day 2K16

Today is Martin Luther King Day!

I apologize for the lack of posts the past few weeks, but with the holidays not much really went on, and last week was the first week of classes.

But last week had some major things go on, as did the week before!

For those of you that don't know I have recently moved, again. This time I stayed in the same city, but the church I am partnered with has offered me free housing right across the street from campus. So as of right now I am literally writing this from where I live, which is also the church office, which is awesome. God truly blessed this situation, because when I first talked to my original landlords about it, they said I wasn't able to get out of my lease. But just the day before I talked to them, they received a call from a transfer student looking for a place to rent. They took a look at the apartment, decided it would suit their needs, and took over my lease for me! This opened up my living situation and I was able to move! But I had to be out relatively quick, so Tuesday, the 5th, I ended up getting all of my big stuff out of my apartment. Luckily I'm a part of this fantastic church and was able to get some help pretty quick! Part of the bad news though was that I had to give away my first pet, my cat Altair. But there was a couple here in town that was willing to take him for me, and I think it was a good fit. I hope at least.

As I mentioned earlier, classes started at Penn State last week on Monday. So for most of the week I was on campus, meeting with students, getting ready for Bible studies, making plans, and that fun stuff. Thursday was the spring activities fair, which wasn't all that great. Very few students came through, though I did get to hang out with a couple of ours for a couple hours which was a great time.

Last Sunday I also go to do my first communion meditation ever in a church setting (I don't count communion talks in CSF). From the feed back that I got from people I guess it went pretty well!

This week already is looking pretty filled as well. Today the campus is doing a "Time of Service" for MLK Day which I need to be at. Afterwards some students want to get together and go bowling, which should be a great time! Tuesday of course we have CSF, where we'll be looking at Christian Maturity to prepare ourselves for the upcoming semester where we'll talk about how Christians should act and approach the different social issues which are so prevalent in our culture today. Some of the bigger topics that we'll be discussing of course include racism, sexuality and sexual orientation, and religious fanaticism. But we'll also be looking at topics such as mental illnesses and disabilities, capitalism, violence and self defense, and even attempt to answer the question, "Is America a Christian nation?" Looking forward to this semester and these discussions, I can't help but get excited at what God's going to do.

But that's all from Altoona for right now! Please keep us in your prayers as we go through this semester and try to impact campus in a way that no one else is.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's the Final Countdown!

Hopefully I don't get sued for using that as a title. Oh well.

Well it's finals week here at Penn State! Our students are studying hard (hopefully) and not stressing out too much (I say while I head at least four banging their heads against a table while another cries in a corner).

This past week luckily hasn't been too bad, and this coming week is looking fairly light as well!

Over the past week I've really just tried to be available for our students, and been preparing for next semester. Building on what I've been talking about with next semester, I actually have some idea's about different things we can be doing!

For different studies I'm thinking about doing 3 extra ones on top of our weekly meeting. I want to go through a book of the Bible just for a time for people to get together and get in the Word. Another is a men's Bible study, Bearded Bosses of the Bible which will be awesome. I also think it would be highly beneficial to do a Christianity 101 type study to teach what Christianity is, who we are, and get into the deeper ideas of Christianity like salvation, Christology, apologetics, exegesis, theology proper, etc.

Some of the other events that I have rolling around in my head right now just for things to do include, but are not limited to:

  • Basketball Tournament
  • Dodgeball Tournament
  • Video game Tournament
  • Ice cream
  • Pancakes
  • Petting zoo
  • Inflatables
  • Campus wide capture the flag
  • Obstacle courses
  • And who knows what else!
Again the purpose of all this is to give students on campus things to do, but also to get CSF's name out there as something different and unique on campus!

Planning is also underway for our Spring Break trip. We're looking at heading to South Carolina, but who knows if that will work out or not. It's still early! 

This coming week we're looking to do a Christmas party for CSF with a white elephant gift exchange and food just to give the students some time away from studying and for us to have some fun!

But really that's all we got going on here. I'll probably be on campus for the most part this week providing support for students during this trying time in their lives. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Looking forward!

Another week down and another picking up!

Luckily the past week hasn't been horribly busy! Meaning I could sleep a lot and try to fight of this cold which doesn't want to leave.

This past week has been looking forward a lot to the next semester. Our semester is winding down, with finals being next week, so our students are doing a lot of studying and finishing up projects and trying not to go insane, which I completely remember from my undergrad days, watching everyone else scramble to get ready for finals while I...just didn't. But I still did well on my finals at least!

This past week I finally was able to finish my class, which seemed to take forever, but I pushed through and got it done!

As I said, we're already looking forward to next semester with this one coming to a close. Some of the plans that we have for the spring are actually pretty exciting.

As stated in previous posts I've been meeting with different offices and administrators trying to figure out the needs for campus and how CSF can incorporate filling those needs in our foundation. One big thing that we're looking to do is have something on the weekends for students to do as an alternative to go out and party. Already I have a few idea's in mind, but I'm also tasking our students to get some figured out as well seeing as how it would be them who would be served through this endeavor.

We're also looking at doing some type of seminar or workshop or something to inform students on the resources provided by campus to help them through their college experience, be that a need for counselling, tutoring, or any other kind of support that campus offers. One of the big problems is that the students get stressed, and either don't know about the resources campus provides or are too proud to go seek help, so we want to offer the information for the resources and also let them know that seeking out help is nothing to be ashamed of.

We're also looking at starting more Bible studies throughout the semester, one of which I'm working on now which I'm calling Bearded Bosses of the Bible. Awesome name I know. But it's going to be a men's Bible study looking at male figures in the Bible that probably had awesome beards, and we're going to look at their life and their story, then spend time looking at what God condoned and condemned about them and what that means for us today. Already I've started working on it, and I think it'll turn out really good for our guys!

I also want to get a few more started, maybe going through a specific book, or looking at different topics, or a specific topic. But that requires some work with our students to find out what they want seeing as how I'm here to minister to, or serve, them.

This semester we're looking at doing one more event, which would be a Christmas party for our students. We're just waiting for it to be approved. But we're looking for our last Tuesday together to just be a night of fun and fellowship, having food, games, and a white elephant gift exchange.

We're also doing our Wednesday night Bible study at the church which I continually forget to write about, but it's going well. At the very beginning the attendees decided to go through the book of Revelation, of course. Last week we went through Chapter 14 which had some good topics and discussion between the guy that came and me. The big problem with Revelation though is that it is incredibly symbolic and imagery driven, so getting through that can be difficult. Hopefully the next one will be easier!

But overall that's what's going on in Altoona, just looking forward to next semester and getting things kicked off! Thank you for your prayer and support and as always feel free to get a hold of me!