September 2016 Prayer Letter


One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)


Greetings from Kent! It feels like we’ve just turned a corner this week: hitting the open road after a lot of twists and turns and beginning-of-the-year bottlenecks. On Monday evening, we pulled off our fourth large-group gathering in eight days. It felt a bit like sleep-walking, as I helped to vacuum the floors of the lecture hall to prepare the space for classes the following day… but the repetitive activity and steady drone of the machine also gave me space to reflect. Our Labor Day Night of Worship was wonderful. It felt so appropriate to start our regular, five-days-a-week rhythms with praise, worship, prayer and Communion — fixing our eyes on Jesus, celebrating all that He’s been doing through the first couple weeks of the semester, and looking ahead to what the rest of the school year may hold. We labored hard, like farmers in planting season, but now we get to watch God make things grow. What a privilege!

I’m actually pretty excited about the current shift into routines and regularity. Still, I recognzie that there is nothing like the beginning of the school year for building relationships. When else do 5,000 strangers drop into a community: all hungry for experiences and relationships that parents, teachers, siblings, and friends have been telling them will be “the best in their lives”?!? The college campus is a ministry environment like no other. H2O staff and students helped new students move into their residence halls… hung posters throughout campus… organized games at Memorial Field… and hosted a late-night house party on the biggest party block in the city…

But of all the Welcome Week activities, my favorite opportunity for building relationships is the Freshmen Day of Service, organized by the University’s Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement. They ask H2O to help provide project leaders every year, leading hundreds of volunteers out into the community for various service projects. In the process, we not only get to serve the community — but we also get to build relationships with new students! This year, I got to lead a group of seven freshmen as we helped to clean up the exterior of the ReStore (a sort of home-improvement thrift shop, run by Habitat for Humanity). Our group consisted of two young women who came to college already looking to seriously pursue Christ, plus five others whose spiritual engagement ranged from nominal Catholic to totally unengaged.

I didn’t really know what to expect out of the morning, as we waited for the bus to take us to our work site, so I prayed for God to open up avenues of conversation. Within a half-hour, things opened up dramatically. We shared our anxieties and insecurities for the coming school year in a surprisingly-candid way… We talked about the difference between cultural faith and personal faith… We talked about the meaning of missions… We talked about the ways that H2O is designed to help college students discover what it looks like to walk with God during their University years… The conversation was so good and so full of the Gospel! We all connected in a really beautiful way and exchanged contact information to keep in touch, after our service project was completed. The next morning, two of the students (one who already seemed to have a vibrant walk with God and one who was more of a nominal Catholic) joined H2O’s Welcome Worship Gathering — and they said they loved it. I’m excited to see how all of these relationships develop, from this point forward.

Please keep praying for us. In addition to all the exciting opportunities described above, there seem to be a number of unusual struggles within our H2O circles this year. One student who attended our off-campus Life Group last year drowned in Lake Erie the week before classes started — and several of his close friends in the church are grieving that loss… One of our student-interns just learned that her mother (age 54) has been given a preliminary diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease… One of our Life Group leaders just shared that her father, after years of struggling with alcoholism, has been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver… We’re spending a lot of time reminding ourselves and each other about the power of the Gospel for day-to-day living. We have so much bright hope for such dreadful darkness! Thank God for that. Thanks, also, for your support through everything. We’ll be in touch…

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