March 2017 Prayer Letter

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

Greetings from Kent! Have you see the daffodils sprouting?!? Have you seen the robins hopping through the grass?!? These signs of the Spring seem to be popping up earlier than usual, here in Northeast Ohio (we’re still bracing ourselves for the seemingly-inevitable setback blizzard sometime in the next couple of weeks), but we’re very happy when we get to come out of our “hibernation holes” and breathe deep draughts of fresh air — even if it’s only temporary!

The natural season seems to have a lot of parallels to the spiritual season of collegiate ministry in which we find ourselves. In particular, I’ve been reminded of the fields of “winter wheat” back in Richland County, where Marci and I grew up: planted in the fall, hidden under a layer of snow and ice in a vegetative phase through the winter, and then sprouted in the Spring. In many different areas of our ministry to students at Kent State University, the Fall Semester feels like a lot of back-breaking work to plant the fields. Final Exams and the Winter Break feel like the vegetative phase. But now, by God’s grace, we’re seeing a lot of sprouting. It’s really encouraging for me to watch. Hopefully for you to read about, too!

Our February retreats were particularly catalytic events. Every year, we bring together all the men of the H2O Network (now representing ten different universities in the region!) for one weekend. Then the following weekend, we bring together all of the women. The time is spent in worship, teaching, workshops, recreational activity, and just the tiniest bit of sleep. I can’t explain exactly why these retreats work — any more than I can tell you why winter wheat grows the way it does — I just know that they do. Bands of brothers and sisters are formed over these weekends, interpersonal relationships are taken to the next level, and God’s influence becomes evident in the lives of individuals as they open up to His Spirit.

It was at ManMaker itself that I started talking more seriously about leadership with two guys from my Life Group: Cam and Jake. They’re both young — still just in their first year at Kent State University — but they’ve got a hunger for God and His Word. After several rounds of conversation, Cam and Jake have decided to start an “apprenticeship” under the other student leaders in our Life Group. Even as Cam and Jake step up from committed members to apprentice-leaders, a shy guy named Josh has been finding his voice in our Life Group, shifting from “fringe attender” to committed member. And then, even as Josh shifts away from the fringe, new guys like Steven and Travis have started coming to Life Group, since ManMaker. It’s just a beautiful process of continued growth and development among these young men!

I haven’t been afforded as much of a front-row seat to see what’s happening with the women of our church, following their Women’s Weekend (seeing how men are generally not encouraged to attend this event!) — but still, it’s been neat to the “crops sprouting” in those fields as well. In particular, I’ve been encouraged to witness a young woman named Grace choose to get baptized this past Sunday, inviting all of her friends (especially a couple of international students, from the Middle East) to witness the occasion in hopes of understanding how she has decided to follow Jesus. I’ve also been excited to see a woman from our Life Group, named Kairie taking steps of faith to join a Spring Break missions trip to the University of Central Florida.

Speaking of which: it seems like we are poised to see God do something huge through our upcoming H2O Spring Break trips (March 25 – April 1). Three of the four teams we’re sending out are completely maxed out: a group of 35 traveling south to practice Spiritual Disciplines in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee… a group of 15 driving down to experience Collegiate Church Planting at the University of Central Florida… a group of 3 from H2O embedded within a larger team of 15 going to Buffalo, New York, as a part of the University’s Alternative Spring Break trip to learn about and engage in social justice initiatives… And even a group of 13 flying halfway around the world to Hyderabad, India, to help care for orphans in that part of the world! Could you pray with us for maximum impact through these maxed-out mission trips? We’re praying that our students (the “missionaries”) would be just as impacted as the people we’re going to serve and support (the “mission fields”). We’re praying that God will pave the way for us, into each of these different locations, and we’re praying that His will be done.

I feel like I could go on and on about the “buds” and “blossoms” that we’re seeing! It’s happening with our ongoing outreach to international students in Kent… It’s happening through the missionaries I continue to supervise and support in Amsterdam… It’s happening with the team that’s visiting Stockholm next week to make final preparations for a move from Ohio to Sweden, starting this summer, in order to make disciples and plant churches in that part of the world… And, honestly, I feel like it’s happening in my own heart — as I well up with gratitude for God’s goodness in my life and in the lives of those around me!

Isn’t it good to be harvesting these fields together?!? Thank you so much for your partnership in the Gospel, through praying and giving to Reliant in support of our work. We couldn’t be doing all this harvest work without you. We’ll be in touch…

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