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My Final Rice Newsletter

Hello Dear Friends,

It is a joy to write to you again. This will be my final update about ministry at Rice University.  As of June 1st, I have now completed my two year commitment to ministry at Rice and am now transitioning to a new RUF position, working with international students at Texas A&M University.  Thank you so much for your support over the last two years. Your generosity has been tremendous and overflowing.  I never once lacked for the funds to do ministry during the whole of my time at Rice.  I have been fully supplied and have been able to see God using your generosity for the upbuilding of His Kingdom there.  Our King, the Serpent Crusher, the Holy Judge, and Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is building a kingdom out of living stones. He has continued this work at Rice over the past two years and He used us to do so.  Your giving has been a fragrant offering and a beautiful sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God (Phil 4:18).  

This final semester at Rice was amazing as the Lord has allowed me to see more fully the fruit of RUF's ministry.  There was also a strong sense of urgency that came from knowing my time with this group of students was almost over.  The last month of ministry was very fast paced as I met with more students per week than I ever have before.  I got to have many meaningful gospel conversations, as I tried to make sure that I did not leave anything unsaid before moving on.  The Lord provided several really fantastic opportunities to share the gospel with non believers and in the last few weeks of the semester we also began to see more new students coming to Large Group dinner and worship.  The semester ended on a high note with RUF’s beach retreat.  There I saw God use that time to help students step out of the busyness and pressure of the semester and allow them the space to rest and focus on Him.   Retreats like these always seem to grow student’s spiritually while simultaneously bonding them together. This retreat was certainly no exception.  I saw student’s friendships strengthened tremendously even as their faith was nourished. God has been at work powerfully throughout this semester and because I do not have enough space to communicate all of what I have seen him doing in this newsletter, I want to share a couple specific moments near the end of this semester that overwhelmed me with gratitude, worship, and joy. I just want to give you a couple of snapshots of a few of the specific ways God has used you at Rice recently this semester.

SnapShot 1

I told you in a previous newsletter from last semester about how we used the RUF funds that you provided to buy the materials and put together about sixty care packages for homeless people in our area of Houston.  Well after putting them together, each person in RUF who owned a car took a box of these care packages and put it in their backseat so that they could have something to hand to the many homeless people who stand along the road at intersections in Houston.  The care packages included things like socks, neosporin, protein bars, band-aids, and a card with an encouraging note and a Bible verse.  As we came near to the end of this semester we still had about 35 care packages left between all of us so we decided to take a Saturday morning and devote four hours to driving around Houston and personally delivering all of the ones we had left. 

That was our plan and a few weeks ago, we did just that.  About fifteen RUF students came on the designated Saturday and then we broke up into three cars and each drove in a different direction.  Whenever we saw a homeless person we parked, got out of the car, and went over to talk with them and deliver the care package to them.  This turned out to be an incredible experience! We gave away all but two of the care packages and also got to talk with and pray for many of these individuals. Most of them were very appreciative.  Several immediately sat down and replaced their worn out socks with the new ones.  Many of them thanked us profusely and told us about their lives and how we could pray for them.  We prayed for their safety, for their children, and for particular medical needs.  Many simply asked us to pray for things to get better.  These were very human moments of vulnerability and we were able to pray for them with all of our hearts as the emissaries of Jesus.  It was, at once, both a beautiful and a sobering experience.  It was beautiful to see students boldly step outside of their comfort zones to faithfully incarnate the love of Christ and yet it was also very painful to see with our own eyes how much suffering there is constantly going on right under our noses that we do not even notice.

Their lives are very hard as they live in a constant state of hyper-awareness and deprivation.  Their fight or flight response is constantly engaged and they are always exposed to the elements so it is very hard to sleep.  We met and prayed for one man who had lost all ten of his fingers to frostbite this year during the snowstorm.  It was eye opening and crushing.  We were painfully aware of our limitations.  There was only so much we were able to do.  A few protein bars, some socks, and band-aids is far from a permanent solution.  However, it was something that we could do that would tangibly help these people who Jesus loves.  It was an act of love and also an act of obedience to our King who loves the least of these.  Jesus is the King who did not stay in His place of privilege, but rather He came down.  Leaving His place of comfort for us, Jesus emptied Himself and took on Himself the form of a servant.  Even though our service to these homeless people was a small act of kindness, it was done in Jesus's name, and I pray that He will multiply the benefit of it to help and encourage these people whom He loves.

Snapshot 2

Near the end of the semester a new student started coming to our weekly large group meetings and I got to share the gospel with him!  Originally he came by just to get a free burrito. 

For context, every Wednesday evening during the semester RUF had Chipotle burritos for dinner on the grass of the central quad before walking over to one of the newly constructed PFC tents for our Large group worship service.  Always bringing more than enough burritos to feed the people in RUF,  we began to offer free burritos to  passers by.  We would invite them to eat with us but did not require them to do so  in order to get a free burrito.  Some students would stay and eat with us while the majority each week would take the burrito and then keep walking.   Over the course of the semester more and more students from outside RUF began to come by every Wednesday to take a free burrito.  We started handing out about 40 free burritos each week before we would eat dinner ourselves on the grass in a big circle.  As we began to see the same faces week after week and continued to invite them multiple times we began to see more people stay to eat with us.  

One student who originally took a free burrito several weeks in a row decided to come to Large group with us afterwards.  There he listened intently and observed the worship service.  Afterwards he talked with me and several RUF students for a good amount of time.  He told me that he had grown up Hindu and was currently agnostic but that he was very interested in understanding Christianity.  I offered to buy him lunch somewhere in Rice Village and said I would love to talk more with him about Christianity and try my best to answer any questions he might have.  He gladly accepted my offer and we met the following week for lunch.

At that lunch we had a fantastic conversation as he asked me many questions about Christianity.  The first question this young man asked me after we sat down and ordered our food was, “Alright Josh, tell me why should I be a Christian?”  I almost couldn't believe my ears.  I was amazed and grateful that the Lord provided me with such an easy entry question to share the gospel.  

Starting from the beginning, I got to share the beautiful story of the gospel with him.  I shared the story of God’s perfect creation, man’s sinful fall, God’s sovereign plan of redemption, Jesus’s atoning death on the cross where He bore our sins though He himself was perfect, and the promised hope of the coming glory which is held secure for us by Jesus’s glorious resurrection.  The student listened with incredible attentiveness and asked very thoughtful questions.  I shared my testimony with Him and we looked at many different passages of scripture together.  

At the end of the meal I asked him if the story of the gospel was meaningful to him and if he was willing to consider the possibility that it was not only sublimely beautiful but also true?  He replied that it was certainly meaningful to Him and that it was indeed incredibly beautiful.  He said he was not yet convinced that it was true but he was interested in learning more and asked to be informed when Summer RUF events began and also asked me to send him a list of books to read on Christianity.  I am praying ardently for this young man and I ask that you would do so likewise.  I am thanking the Lord for the opportunity to get to know him and to share the gospel with him.  I am hopeful that he will continue to come to RUF through the summer as he continues to seek God.  Please pray with me that God will save his soul. Our God is mighty to save!

Final Greetings

Your giving has had a huge impact at Rice and I am so thankful for you all.  Jesus is on His throne and He is already ruling and reigning over all things.  Countless Bible studies, large group services, and gospel conversations have been made possible through your generosity.  As I am now transitioning out of my ministry position at Rice and into a new ministry position with RUFI at Texas A&M, I want to say thank you so much for leaning into what the Lord is doing with me for the last two years. 

I would also like to ask you to prayerfully consider continuing to support me as my ministry partners in this new place.  I would love for you to have the same gospel impact at A&M as you did for the last two years at Rice.  I love you all. I am praying for you.  Until we see each other again, hear the words of our King Himself from Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Come Lord Jesus! Until then, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. 

For the King,

Joshua Coleman

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