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My Prayer for You All

Hello Dear Friends, 

It is so good to be able to write to you all again. I constantly thank our God for you all and want to say again, now as always, that you are exceedingly encouraging to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your prayers and support! You are a blessing to me.

Recently, as I have been praying for my supporters I have been using the promises in Philippians as inspiration. On an almost daily basis this semester, I have been praying through Philippians for you all. Honestly, I can echo Paul’s sentiment as he wrote to his own supporters in the Philippian church saying, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Phil 1:3-5). Your partnership in ministry is a joy to me. I am strengthened and encouraged by your prayers, support, and continued fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Most often this semester, my prayer for you has come from Philippians 1:9 and Phillipians 3:12.  From Philippians 1 my request on your behalf is that, “your love might abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” And from Philippians 3, I pray that you would press on through trials to make the hope of the gospel your own, because Christ Jesus has already made you His own!

God is on the Move

As I look back on this semester, I can honestly say that it felt like a very long sprint. In order to limit on-campus exposure to the Corona virus, Rice shortened the semester and proceeded through the entire fall with no breaks until students went home for thanksgiving, at the end of school.  This meant that students had less time to learn the same amount of material and did so without any breaks. The whole semester felt condensed and extremely short.  

Along with the fatigue of that long sprint, RUF worked hard this semester to adapt to doing ministry in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic.  From figuring out how to have RUF events while still meeting Rice’s strict social distancing guidelines, to adapting to our students being scattered across the nation in other states or cities, there were certainly many new and different challenges this semester. Yet, God is in control. Sovereignly, He works all things for His glory and for the good of His people.  I want you all to know that God actually used these new and different circumstances to accelerate the advance of the gospel here at Rice University. 

Building His kingdom, God worked mightily this year, not just despite, but actually through the pandemic. One of the most evident ways that God has been at work this semester has been through bringing a large influx of new freshmen students into RUF. Incredibly, RUF has experienced over a 100% increase in the number of new freshmen from last year to this one! God used the pandemic to accomplish this. As a result of Covid, many freshmen showed up at Rice desperate for community but unsure how to meet anyone. In the past, Rice has actually done a great job of providing many avenues for community and fostering a culture where students could quickly make new friends and get involved on campus. This year however, a lot of that broke down as students were not allowed to visit one another’s dorms. All intramural sports were also canceled, students were all instructed to wear masks, and expected to stay at least 6 feet apart from one another at all times, unless they were in their own dorm rooms.  While all of these restrictions did lead to Rice being among colleges with the fewest positive covid cases, it also made it hard for new freshmen to build community. All of this led to a campus full of freshmen  starved for community and thinking about existential questions.  This is where RUF and other Christian ministries on campus were able to step in and provide gospel shaped communities as well as biblical answers to these existential questions, answers that are both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. God used this pandemic to bring many new students into RUF so that we can be a community that loves and cares for them well; ultimately so that they can encounter Him, through His people and His Word. 

Even as God has brought more students to RUF, growing us corporately, He is also very evidently at work in the lives of our students’ individually, growing them spiritually.  It has been a great privilege to watch how God is growing and shaping students at Rice into His image. I have seen different individual students grow in love, boldness, joy, compassion, dependence, and faith this semester.  God is impressing on their hearts the incredible truth that He, the God of the universe, loves them so much that He left His place of highest privilege and power, and humbled Himself, becoming obedient even to the point of death, even death on a cross, for them.  Jesus is changing students.  As they believe the gospel more and more deeply and as they know Jesus more and more closely they are being transformed into people characterized more and more by grace and truth.

Update on the Semester

While this semester has looked different in some ways from past years because of the social distancing restrictions Rice has enacted, it has also been surprising to me how well RUF has been able to adapt and continue to do ministry. For instance, we were still able to have our weekly Large group meeting with dinner provided, fellowship, worship, and a sermon, just like always. We changed the food we provided, making sure it was individually packaged. We ate outside with the chairs scooted back from the tables to maintain 6 feet of distance between students while eating. We sang with masks on and our Campus minister preached while wearing a face shield.  After eating outside, we moved to a tent with desks spaced 6 feet apart from one another for the worship and sermon.  We streamed the worship and sermon portions of the event over zoom for all our students who elected to stay home and take classes online this semester.  We did a few things differently this semester.  Yet, even though we followed all of these extra precautions we were still able to have great fellowship, worship, and teaching.  I was pleasantly surprised by how little all these measures actually stood out.  Once we figured out how to have a large group meeting while still following the school’s prescribed guidelines, all the safety measures faded into the background and did not detract from the focus of the event itself.  

Surprisingly, RUF has been able to continue almost all of our normal weekly events to reach students and continues as a thriving community this semester. Along with our weekly Large Group meetings, in person on Wednesdays, we also had a weekly guy’s bible study and a weekly girl’s bible study, held over zoom.  Getting off campus grounds was a big stress relief for our students so we tried to do it as often as possible.  In order to help students get out of their dorms and into the sunshine, we had a lot more off campus events this year, than in years past.  Providing rides for students, we drove to a local park and hung out in the sun, with some frisbees and lawn games several weekends in a row.  Several times this semester, we also took students off campus for some joint events with the University of Houston’s RUF.  These events were very fun and allowed our students to get to know some of the awesome students from U of H.  We have continued to provide rides to church on a weekly basis and have seen a large increase in numbers. Since last year, the number of students who come to church with us has doubled, from the eight to ten we typically brought last year, to twenty!   God has greatly blessed RUF at Rice this semester in allowing us to continue to minister to Rice students on a weekly basis and be a thriving gospel centered community, while still keeping in line with Rice’s social distancing policies.

Another change from last semester is that we have a new campus minister and a new girl’s intern on staff! Broun Stacy, our new campus minister, and Olivia Thurman, our new girl’s intern, joined the RUF staff this semester and have done an incredible job of ministering to students.  Broun and Olivia have both been perfect fits for RUF at Rice and have done a phenomenal job of ministering to students. God has used them powerfully in the lives of many students.

Ministry Moment

Recently, I was talking one on one with a Rice student who has a heart for mercy ministry.  He explained that he had been thinking a lot about the many homeless people that surround us in Houston. Unbeknownst to him, I had also been feeling an inward call to care for them and had been thinking and praying about how to go about it.  Houston is full of homeless people and I am sure that if Jesus were here he would constantly be with them, among them, loving them, and providing for their needs.  Jesus is the King who left His place of privilege for his people’s sake.  He was a man who really saw people and truly loved them. He especially cared for those who are all too often forgotten by polite society.  

Neither of us are from Houston and the large amount of homeless people here came as a shock to both of us.  As we discussed the character of Jesus, both of us began to realize how incredibly privileged we are to have homes and support systems made up of family and friends who care for us.  I have a car. I have clothes to wear.  I have never gone hungry.  It is shocking to realize that I am effectively a millionaire. I have never thought of myself as rich, but I am.  On a global scale I am certainly very rich.  It is just easy to miss it because I live in the richest country on earth.  As we talked we came to the conviction that God probably did not give us this extreme wealth to be used merely for our own needs. We believe that He gave us much, specifically so that we could give much.  Jesus is the one who left His place of privilege and gave all he had, even His own life, for us.  He did it for love. We left the conversation still unsure how to help.  The problem still seemed so large.  What could we do? But one thing we knew, we could not ignore this inward call we both felt to care for and serve these people, who are like us, God’s children.  So we resolved to pray about it and talk again.

After praying about it and talking to some other RUF students, we decided that a good place to start would be to make some care packages for the homeless people in our area.  We ran the idea past the rest of RUF and were met with a lot of excitement.  So, encouraged, we went to Costco and bought supplies for 60 care packages.  Then that Saturday afternoon, one of the weekends right before final exams, we held an RUF care package building event. I was very encouraged as we had many students come and help us put the packages together.  During that weekend most Rice students would not want to take time off of studying but we had many students give up their weekend to help.  Forming an assembly line, we had a lot of fun filling each care package as a group.  I am so excited and encouraged to see students setting aside time from their busy school schedules to invest their effort and energy in helping others.  We have already handed out some of them and I am praying that as we hand them out to homeless people God will use these care packages to meet some important physical needs for the homeless people in our area.  Just as importantly, I hope and pray that these packages give us opportunities to meet important relational needs and bring many opportunities to share the gospel to meet spiritual needs.

Copyright © 2020 RUF Rice Internship, All rights reserved.

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