“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)
Greetings from Kent! How’s your Fall coming along? I’ve been doing some travel recently — to a conference and a wedding — in addition to all the typical beginning-of-the- school-year activities. This last weekend, we also managed to squeeze in a Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration for H2O Kent, alongside the University’s Homecoming festivities. But I’m very happy to be resuming regular rhythms and routines in Kent: burrowing back into life here, for now and for the foreseeable future.
I feel like the Holy Spirit has been compelling me and energizing me to shepherd the flock here at H2O Kent. I noticed it particularly as I finished up my travels, with 1 Peter 5:1-11 and John 13:34-35 heavy on my mind. These verses harken back to themes our leadership team started thinking about, talking about, and praying about back at the end of the summer. And it seems to me that everything has been building to this point in the year.
The first six weeks of a new school year are highly strategic. “Regular” life and ministry must be swept aside to prioritize new relationships during the season in which new students have an unparalleled openness to new experiences. I’ve been trying to come up with a word picture to capture the significance of this season of outreach (though nothing quite fits). It’s like a farm crew working furiously to get seed in the ground while conditions are just right: scattering widely, pushing all the farm workers and farm machinery to the limits of what they can handle from pre-dawn to post-dusk, doing everything it takes to maximize yield at harvest-time… Or, it’s like an army surging through a strategic opening in its enemies’ defenses, capturing territory and personnel and munitions and supply lines with lightning speed because of the unexpected opportunities afforded by the battle… Or, it’s like a dog giving birth to a litter of puppies, exerting all her energy toward the delivery process with only cursory attention to each new pup until all are safely delivered… Again, I’m not a farmer, or general, or veterinarian, so I’m sure these analogies are flawed — but you get the idea.
Now that we’ve made it through that strategic first month, though, dynamics must shift. The proverbial farm needs time and space for water and sunshine to do their work, maybe with some strategic fertilization and/or draining projects, depending on how the crops are coming along, and the farm crew also gets the chance to tend to other chores that had to be temporarily neglected… The proverbial army needs to dig new trenches, fortify its lines with fresh supplies and reinforcements in order to settle in for a more sustainable, long-term campaign… Or, the proverbial litter of puppies can take some time to snuggle up against their mother while she also rests, nursing at her side, gaining weight, warmth, and strength until they can open their eyes and amble about on their own. All that to say this: dynamics are changing, and I’m excited about the opportunites I’m being afforded to participate in the work that God is currently doing in the lives of our people at H2O Kent.
I thought it could be meaningful to provide a window into a few of the places where my thoughts and prayers have been settling in this new stage of the school year:
- Checking in with students who are hurting: one recovering from an incident of sexual assault that happened about a month ago…. another dealing with a significant bout of depression… another grieving the recent death of his grandfather… as well as corresponding with a former student who is currently working through the physical and emotional challenges of the Army’s Basic Training
- Coaching a number of young couples through various relationship dynamics: everything from a sort of pre-premarital counseling… to walking with a couple just coming out of the “honeymoon phase” of their new marriage… to straight-up marriage counseling through issues of addiction and idolatry
- Resuming regular rhythms with a group of guys who have been learning to practice the spiritual disciplines together, morning by morning, plus pursuing other people to join us and develop a consistent community centered around Christ
- Starting up a running group with three student leaders, in order to train together for the Sandusky Santa Hustle (a half-marathon happening in early December) and develop closer relationships in the process
- Getting back in touch with some of the students I’ve been pursuing to talk through various questions about Christianity after initial conversations earlier in the school year or following up on spiritual interest surveys that were completed on campus
I’m confident that God is on the move in all of these areas, and I would love for you to be praying with me in these directions! Also, for those of you in Richland County, I wanted to let you know that I’m going to be preaching at Berean Baptist Church in Mansfield on the morning of Sunday, October 28th. It would be great to see you there, if you’re able to join. In any event, I want you to know that we really appreciate your partnership in the Gospel! We’ll be in touch…