The City Beyond SLU – New Adventures in 2015

High School Graduation

A few folks from the Marion High School Class of 2005 – Marion, IL

Has it happened to you yet?  You’re on Facebook and you see the little number outlined in red that tells you something important enough for notification has happened since you were last online.  With tempered excitement, you click the number and read the first few words of the notification:  “Hey everyone! Believe it or not it’s been ten years since we graduated…”  It’s a note from your high school class president telling you about a homecoming game and a certain momentous gathering being planned for the fall.

Ten years ago, I was two months away from graduating high school and making the final decision about where I was heading for college.  By the end of April, I had made my choice – I was moving two hours northwest to Saint Louis to attend Saint Louis University, a school I knew almost nothing about but sounded fairly prestigious and impressive in my mind.

I arrived with a lot of confidence but very little community.  I joined the Student Government Association for basically the same reason I did everything in high school – it sounded impressive and important.  It only took me about an hour of the first three-hour meeting to discover that I wasn’t really cut out for SGA.  However, by some coincidence (or providence), I happened to be placed on the Social Justice Committee which met on Monday nights in the Student Center.  The meetings were awful but every week I would show up and every week I would hear faint acoustic guitar music for the first 20-30 minutes of our meetings coming from the room above.  I hadn’t really found any Christian community on campus but had heard of some random group my RA was part of that sounded a little sporty for me (Something Varsity?).  I figured the only people on campus playing acoustic guitars at 7pm on a Monday night had to be Christian and I determined to find out if I ever escaped the confines of Student Government.

The first week back in January, I quit SGA and, on the second Monday of the semester, I dragged a few friends with me to check out this mysterious Monday night community and their acoustic guitar-playing.  That was my first night at InterVarsity (turns out they are not very sporty, but we’re working on it).

Two years later, I applied to follow my InterVarsity staff to Cairo for a six-week Global Urban Trek that summer after graduation.  Realizing I had no idea what I was doing after we got back from Egypt, I also decided to go ahead and apply to intern with InterVarsity, fully expecting to spend just one extra year in Saint Louis before figuring out what I was really going to do with my life.

Fast forward seven years later to my tenth year of walking the halls of Saint Louis University under the banner of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  I’m 28 now and, for the past seven years, I have had the undeserved, unbelievable privilege of leading the InterVarsity chapter at this beautiful university.  As I round the bases of the Spring Semester one more time, it is with gratitude and a little bit of bittersweetness that I tell you that this is my final semester leading the community here.  Jesus has sent one of the finest young leaders I have met to lead the chapter into the future and has given pretty clear coordinates to my family and I that this is the time to set our sights on something beyond SLU – the rest of Saint Louis and the unreached corners of campuses all over our city.

Starting this Spring, I’m beginning to investigate (along with some of our current SLU leaders) campuses in Saint Louis that have often been forgotten or neglected by campus missionaries like myself – community colleges, trade schools, small private schools, etc.  I believe that Jesus has much in store for us and greater things yet to come for the SLU chapter where I began following Jesus as an adult, was mentored by some of the best leaders IV has to offer, and even met my wife by the good fortune of bad weather in Texas (a story for later).

I’m excited to start something new at a school in Saint Louis next fall and to continue to coach the staff at SLU and Webster University.  I’m excited to be involved in this incredible organization that has poured so much into me for ten years.  I’m excited for a new adventure for my family.  And I’m grateful – so grateful – for every leader that has walked with me and every ministry partner that has poured love, financial support, and prayer into these past seven years of ministry at SLU.  What a gift you have given – thanks be to Jesus.

SLU Lent Reflections

I was invited by the Department of Campus Ministry at SLU to write a reflection for their Lenten Reflection blog. The original post is here but I’ve pasted it below for your (mostly, my) enjoyment:

Reflection for Wednesday, March 18th – The Fourth Week of Lent

IS 49: 8-15
PS 145: 8-9. 13CD-14, 17-18
JN 5: 17-30

“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord;
“whoever believes in me will never die.” 
– John 11:25-26
There was a kind-hearted man at my hometown church that gave out bubblegum to the kids on Sundays.  His wife would shake her head and scold him in that playful way that only people who have been married longer than you have been alive can do.  We called him Mr. Bill and he passed away last week.  At the visitation, his wife of 57 years gave kids bubblegum as their parents offered kind words and a hug near his casket.
Death knows no strangers; the curse of sin stretches as far as the eye can see and further still.  We see it in the injustices permeating every screen and newspaper.  We feel its shadow in the halls of our clinical rotations. Many of our majors are aimed, however indirectly, at preventing it, slowing it, cheating it, explaining it, and minimizing its aftershocks.  It figures prominently in the myths of every culture and our own Saint Paul calls it “the last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Cor 15:26).  Death is our chief Adversary and a worthy one at that.
Here is where the Christian story gets good.  Who could defeat such an Enemy? Who could possibly bring about the death of Death?  What is the remedy for this pervasive curse?
Isaiah gives us a proper introduction to such a Hero in his foretelling of the Servant of the Lord who will bring light to the Gentiles and salvation to the ends of the earth. The Creator God speaks through Isaiah to this Servant, giving him “as a covenant to the people,” through whom the lowly will be comforted and the proud will be humbled.
The Psalmist reminds us that this is consistent with the Creator’s character:  He is gracious and merciful; He is kind and compassionate; He is faithful and holy; He is just and near to those who call upon his name.  This is the kind of God we have.
Finally, our Hero arrives.  But he is not perhaps like we were expecting.  This Hero is bold; he pulls no punches and seems to know none of the social cues needed to massage his message into the hearts of the powerful and the religious (two groups we at SLU should always identify with in his stories).  Our Hero is not content to be a Good Teacher, dispensing affirmations for the best intentions of the pious.  He calls himself the Son of God and the fulfillment of the Creator’s purposes in the world.
As the judgment-casting stones are gathered, he names himself the True Judge over every person, nation, and culture.  He is to be humanity’s Only Hero, our only hope for resurrection and the only hope for the restoration of our broken world.  Those who will receive him and believe his words will be vindicated and given the Hero’s victory over Death; those who deny him will be condemned.  It is no wonder they killed him.
Do you know this Jesus? Are there corners of your heart where you resist his Lordship?  Where does Death still reign in your life?  On our campus?  In our city?  Today, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, let us examine ourselves and allow God to search our hearts.  Lent is a time for turning back and listening again.
The Hero’s voice still calls, still invites you to believe.  He is the Resurrection and the Life.