All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Greetings from Kent! In some ways, the last week or so has been like the beginning of any new school year. The air is thick with sweltering heat and humidity. Students are walking around on campus. We all feel a sense of anticipation and anxiety for what the new year will bring. At the same time, we’ve never seen a school year like this one. The pandemic is forcing the majority of classes online. All of the people on campus wear masks and stay six feet apart from each other. Students openly speculate that it’ll be three weeks before an outbreak of COVID causes everything to shut down like back in March.
In the lead-up to Kent State University’s Fall Semester, we were told that groups must not exceed 40 people in any one location on-campus. The University issued guidelines that any gatherings larger than ten people must include a registration process in order to allow for contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. Masks must be worn at all times. Those not living in the same household must stay six feet apart from each other. Event organizers must ensure that all participants adhere to the “Flashes Safe Seven” at all times.
In light of all these restrictions, H2O made some significant adaptations to our ministry model to accommodate these restrictions: multiplying groups to keep everything smaller than usual, meeting either outdoors or online. It’s actually felt kind of fun and creative, and we’ve been getting really excited about the implications for individual growth and leadership development. But then just this week — after twelve students tested positive for COVID — all student organizations were informed that any on-campus gathering larger than ten people must now be virtual. So we’re currently consulting with the University to come up with contingency plans for our contingency plans! It’s keeping us on our toes, for sure. Please pray with us that we’ll stay creative, and quick, and nimble to adapt.
Even with all the restrictions and requirements and readjustments, I have to say that it’s really, really nice that we get to be together again at Kent State University.
We still believe that this could be a great year. The Staff and student-leaders of H2O have been making a lot of meaningful connections with the Class of 2024 over the past couple of weeks. And we’re seeing that students are hungry for community. It seems like there may be even more openness to spiritual things than usual, as well. We couldn’t draw big crowds like we usually love to at this time of the year. Instead, we’ve empowered our leaders to go out, two-by-two, like Jesus sending the seventy-two in Luke 10 — and we’ve managed to get about a hundred responses to our typical beginning-of-the-year survey, even without our large crowd events. Admittedly, the quantity of our interactions has been diminished this year, but the quality of our interactions has been significantly improved. We’re praying that God will do His work this year, in spite of the challenges.
Honestly, we’ve been praying for this month for quite some time.
I remember the earliest days of the pandemic, when the air was cold and the campus was empty. On walks and runs, I prayed that God would breathe life back into the cadaver of campus. I remember reassurances that came from the crocuses and daffodils on Memorial Field. I remember walking past Stopher Hall and seeing a message composed of sticky notes on a second-floor window: “BRB.” Be Right Back. And I prayed “Amen, Lord. Let it be so.”
So I smiled when I saw the updated message in the same window last week: “We’re Back.” I prayed again, that God would use this unusual year to draw people closer to Him. And I get the sense that He’s already answering that prayer. Albeit in unconventional ways. God has been reminding me that unconventional problems call for unconventional solutions. And as people of faith, we have one of the most powerful, most unconventional, most supernatural means of engagement that the world has ever known: Prayer.
Our Staff Team has been praying for Kent State University regularly. Especially in the last two weeks. We’ve met on campus in a grove of trees between two large grassy fields, where we cry out to God together. After a few minutes of talking and praying together, we branch out to walk and pray around different regions of the campus. My area is the Centennial Courts residence halls. And as I’ve prayed each day, I’ve walked through a grove of trees between two of the buildings. I pick up a stone from the ground as I pray, and I place the stone in the hollow of an old tree stump. It started out small, but the pile has grown over these last two weeks. And with it, my hope has grown for what God is going to do this year.
Will you please pray with us for the students of Kent State University? You can be praying specifically for Eddie, Aiden, Morgan, Caleb, Hannah, Kia, Jordan, Lauren, Janson, and Sarah (all new students with whom I’ve been interacting in the Centennial region of campus). I’m grateful for you guys all the time. But especially in this strategic season of the year, it makes me so happy to remember that we have a team of ministry partners (that’s you!) who are willing to support us in prayer. Thanks for everything! We’ll be in touch…