(Please be sure to read BIG CHANGES section!)
INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP GROUP
Lunch & Lounge
It’s been a wonderful year of working with my friend Carmen who is the Anglican Chaplain at the University of Calgary to provide lunch and sometimes more to busy, hungry students each Monday throughout the year. Many came with friends, talked amongst themselves, and left satisfied. Others asked us about ourselves, the churches we attend, the things we believe (Carmen’s collar helped!). It was precious partnership with the Faith & Spirituality Centre and brought many into the space that might not otherwise feel there was a place for them. We finished in April full of gratitude, with many students also expressing their gratefulness.
Our Little Mustard Seed plus Final Party
For the past three years, the fellowship at Olds College have consisted of 6-8 faithful students who have gathered for bible study, prayer and fun. The turn-over of students has been even more than is usual for the college ( some program are 4 months, others 1, 2 or 3 years), such that for the past two years we have had to find & invite new leaders in October for that school year. It hasn’t been as large or quite as full of life as we have experienced there in the past, but I believe students and leaders have grown to see Jesus more clearly and love and share him more faithfully.
During our final party, with 6 students myself and our faculty advisor around the dining table–first eating and then playing games– we laughed harder than I have laughed in years! One of those was a young woman who had many personal, social and family challenges, and yet she was made welcome and found home in our midst over the past two years. And before we said our goodbyes we took the opportunity to encourage and pray for one another. Truly it has been a privilege to come alongside these college students and help them discover and develop their gifts.
A few snapshots of what we’ve been up to. . .
INTERNATIONAL CHRISTMAS CAMP
Our first Alberta Christmas Camp since 2019 did not disappoint! Despite some frigid temperatures, we had three packed days of indoor activities and outdoor fun, leading up to Christmas Eve. Most students engaged quite well in daily discussions about parts of the Christmas story. Many of the non-Christian students who had been attending an Alpha course in Edmonton participated, as did several young newcomers from Afghanistan, one of whom was thrilled to receive a New Testament in Dari and said she’d like to learn more about Jesus. Another friend visibly relaxed into the fun and recreation for what seemed like the first time since she had left her home country. It felt like a holy time. I am grateful to those who prayed.
Each time we celebrate Easter with students on a Saturday, I find myself feeling a bit out of sorts. Perhaps my years in Central Asia ingrained in me the idea the intrinsic value of the rhythms of the Church calendar. I want to talk about the resurrection but not skip over the death of Christ too quickly! In any case, this year I decided we would have a reflection on the “in between”, to talk about not only what we believe caused Jesus to go to the cross and what the resurrection meant but also what it means to live in the middle, which is where we now sit too. We live in the already/not yet, the space between Christ’s first coming, when we see in his resurrection the hope for all the effects of sin being made right, and His second coming, when ALL things will be redeemed. It struck me, as we gathered with internationals from around the world–with grad students grieving and fearful over the policies of the Iranian government, young refugees wondering how to get their families out of an increasingly oppressive Taliban rule, or Masters students who were still job-hunting a year after graduation –that the in-between was exactly where we all find ourselves. We are a jumbled mess of hopeful expectation and certain struggle and trouble and death. I pray that those students glimpsed the hope enveloped in the story of Jesus alongside God’s desire and willingness to make right the wrongs of this world.
MARKWEST SCRIPTURE CAMP
How great it was to be able to spend 5 days with students in the gospel of Mark just a month ago! The 6 students who attended for the second year engaged deeply with the second half of the book, considering Jesus’ call to be last, servant & slave of all, to die to self and take up the cross, to be the bearers of the message of resurrection hope. We had a profound time of worship, sharing and prayer at the close. There, Christian students from Western backgrounds got to encounter the reality of the struggle of one vulnerable young man, M, who expressed his dilemma around losing his family if he chose to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Meanwhile, they also heard the testimony of a young woman, also M, who had made that very difficult choice and found the Father to be faithful through all of what followed. Please pray for M and others in our communities who may be counting the cost of following Jesus.
SOME BIG CHANGES
What a strange year it has been. On the one hand, this is the first year since the beginning of the pandemic that we have been fully “open” as a ministry, with virtually no restrictions and no cancellations. It’s been so wonderful to gather, have fun and celebrate freely once again. However, at the same time, I’ve been feeling some internal dissonance, an unexpected restlessness. As I processed this internally, with the Lord, and with some friends and colleagues, I began to wonder whether I was being invited to leave campus ministry and consider serving somewhere else, doing something different. And much to my surprise, I have seen God confirming this change in my heart and mind, despite there not being a clear direction forward for the next season of my life.
So as I approach 20 years of front-line campus ministry with InterVarsity in July, I am finishing my time on campus. I have accepted several transitional assignments within InterVarsity for the next 5-6 months or so while I discern what is next. The first assignment is to act as summer staff chaplain at InterVarsity’s Alberta Pioneer Camp in Rocky Mountain House. Many have affirmed that this would be a good use of my pastoral strengths. The second is a file organization and digitization role related to risk management and our Pioneer Camps nationally, which I will begin in June and expect to finish in late Fall. I look forward to exploring how my interest in research can be of use as we sift through our archives.
Despite how bittersweet it is to leave a ministry (and colleagues) that I love, I am anticipating that these temporary assignments will close this chapter of my time with InterVarsity. If you have been supporting this ministry financially and are open to continuing while I complete these shorter term but important assignments, I would be so grateful. If you have been praying for this work, your prayers are still much needed, both for me as I embark on these different roles and for the ministry at Old College and University of Calgary as InterVarsity determines how to go forward with students, volunteers and/or hiring new staff for these places.
Please pray. . .
Giving thanks for:
Relationships with International Students that will continue beyond the structures of the International Friendship Group
Volunteers who have partnered with me in ministry both in Olds and the U of Calgary IFG group
Incredible favour at Olds College for our group
Asking especially for:
The Lord to continue to show himself to international students at the University through his people
The right students, volunteers and staff to emerge to support an InterVarsity group at Olds College
The seeds sown in MarkWest to bear good fruit in students’ lives
Wisdom and discernment in my role and conversations as staff chaplain at camp
Perseverance and skill as I work on this digitization project in June and Sept-Nov
Guidance about what is next
|For more information about the broader InterVarsity work and to read other stories. . .|