Hi, my name is Ryan Dowling and I am one of the two bloggers for "Service, Missions, and Leadership". I am an English/Langauge Arts major with a Secondary Education minor. Yep, I am one of those future tolerators and educators of awesome teenagers. I am a Junior with Senior privileges-it's one of those Judson things. My accent is a compliment of Tuscaloosa, AL; the place I call home when I get the opportunity to visit. And, I love being used by God. You will get to read all about the great ways God surprises me on a daily basis. Stick around. It's going to be interesting.
I have a research paper to do!-Laney Jolley, Senior Class President
This was said as our very own Judson librarian floated solo down the Ocoee river last weekend. Yep, she not being able to swim, fell out. Miss Andrea, along with 14 Judson/MMI students, went camping and rafting for the Campus Ministries fall retreat. We camped Friday night and rafted Saturday, then drove the five hours back sore and tired, but it was, OH, SO WORTH IT.
Planning this trip has been a major process. I have been sending emails since August for insurance waivers, buses to be rented, and, most of all, approval from our administration. Fortunately, all of this came through quite smoothly. As a person who likes to get up and go without having to fill out waivers or ask for permission this was trying at times. I like things to be done quickly; however, in ministry it almost never happens that way.
Sometimes things taking their time can be a good thing; a God thing, even. For instance, when you're in the mountains, life seems like it's put on slow motion. Which is great considering meals have to be cooked, fire wood needs to be gathered, and the fastest route to the bathroom needs to be found for late night emergencies all before the sun goes down. God pushing the slow motion button was great for us since we arrived at the Parksville Lake Campsite in Ducktown, TN around 7:30 and the sun was just beginning to set.
I didn't panic-something I normally do. We just had fun. Eventually, the tents were pitched, the grill was lit, and most of the campers went to collect fire wood in the dark-I wish you could have seen that. Sorry MMI cadet that almost died.
We let God do His thing.
The best part of Friday night was the devotion; that was definitely God's timing. Major Steiger was completely transparent. He allowed us to ask him in depth questions about his walk with Christ. When I say in depth, I mean in depth. We asked questions about his marriage, how he got to Marion, his kids, and how he managed to cope with all the stuff in his life.
I think everyone at that campsite walked away with a piece of his wisdom. God gave it to him and I definitely have my nugget to hold on to.
The next morning, after a night of freezing that made you want to cry (I teared a little), Miss Adrea, our librarian, gave her devotion. She spoke about not wasting our life. She was talking about her experience during her 20s, which is completely applicable to our lives. Andrea now knows that God needs to be the forefront of her life in order to be a disciple of Christ.
STOP WASTING TIME!...was the advice she gave us.
What great advice!
All I know is, we didn't waste time last weekend. We laughed, we fellowshipped, and we grew closer to God. All because God slowed down time for us and we absorbed every second of what was given.
It's amazing what God can teach us when we don't live life in the fast lane and retreat into His creation.
Another Lesson Learned,
*Thanks Stacey Lawton, Andrea Abernathy, Dan Steiger, Bill Mathews, John Nicholson, and Vanessa Nicholson for everything you did. It wouldn' t have been a great weekend without you.
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'[c]; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[d]"
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
This passage seems to be the passage of my semester. And, oh, what a hard one it is.
Some people would say that it is easy to love people, but are we in love with people?
Well, let's think about this.
Sure it's easy to "love" people, but what about lovingunconditionally like Jesus Christ loves us? To surrender everything we have when we don't have anything to give. To pray for our enemies when we think they deserve the wrath of God and we hate them. To love our neighbor when it would take up our time and resources.
To love as if we werein love.
That's a little harder, huh?
Over a span of about two weeks, three God-driven people spoke at Campus Ministries events. They were Jess Jennings, Paula Fendley, and Laura Lee. And each time one of them spoke God taught me how to fall in love a little bit more.
On October 11, Jess Jennings spoke at the CORE. He is a founding partner of the Nehemiah Teams. He along with several other people with the IMB have come together to create ways for people with a passion to follow God's Word to mission in the Philippines. He, along with his wife and kids, has dedicated 17 years to God and the children, parents, and people in general of the Philippines. The ministry that God has given him has impacted malnourished children, spread the Gospel to indigenous mountain people, and, even, helped young college students see firsthand the need of God's people to be in places like the Philippines.
One of these college students is Paula Fendley. Campus Ministries sponsored the first ever Mission Night on October 14. This Mission Night was designed to highlight Judson girls who sacrificed their time over the summer, Christmas, or spring break.
Paula spent 2 months
in the Philippines
this past summer
nursing malnourished children
through Nehemiah Teams.
She told me a story over the summer of how she held a dying baby in her arms. All she could do was hold her and let the baby know it was loved. I write, "all she could do", but isn't that enough in itself? To forget the pain of having a dying child in your arms and knowing that there is nothing you can do, but love, unconditionally.
She was in love with this child. She felt the child's pains and
she loved when it hurt the most to love.
Laura Lee spoke at that CORE on Ocotber 18 and does similar things with her life. She has spent the past 7 years in a place that is stricken with HIV/AIDS, poverty that Americans can't understand unless seen, devotes her time to Kingdom Work, and is concerned with spreading the Gospel.
She is in love with the people she works with so much that it brings her to tears to be away from them. These people aren't her biological family or people that she has known for the majority of her life. They are people that God has told her to love, unconditionally. And she does. I have seen her pray for these people, cried for these people, and wished that she were around these people. Laura Lee is an example of self-sacrificing, in love, love.
All three of these people have followed Luke 10:37. They have shown mercy and followed Jesus' command to love their neighbors as themselves.
It's going to be hard for me to be in love with complete strangers, people I don't want to love, or deny my self in order to follow God's commandment.
This is a process and I am falling in love, slowly.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
Most people need a suitcase to get from point A to point B.
I need a moving van.
When I wrote about Selah Vie earlier this semester, I neglected to do one thing in the process-
If you read Bethany Rush's Chapter 3: Keys, Hearts, and Suitcases, it explains what I am talking about. Basically, I needed to have more time to reflect on my summer and to have alone time with God. I needed to know what memories, teachings, and relationships to pack away in storage for later use and what to keep in my carry on for day to day purposes.
It didn't happen.
I went from summer missions at my backdoor to RA training for a freshmen dorm, then from Rose Sunday to the first day of school for my junior year. No rest. This was a huge mistake.
7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come-
it is written about me in the scroll. [d]
8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."
Two months later, I am up to my eyeballs in class work. I have had no desire to do anything related to classes and my sanity, normal sleep routine, and professor's mercy is wearing thin. My passions were focused on something other than God's immediate work for my life. I felt selfish for thinking about devoting so much of my time on me and my studies. I was also drained spiritually, mentally, and physically. My constant complaining and lack of interest showed it. Then, I was reminded earlier this week that God is training me for something right now, AT THIS VERY MOMENT. I might not be doing "church ministry" 24/7, butI still have to glorify God in everything I do, including school work. It was time to put my big girl panties on, brush my pride aside, and get back to work.
It's been 4 days since this revelation and I am still sifting through everything that has happened these past 5 months. It's hard. I am a person of action and I have felt action less; even with 17 hours of course work, teaching GED classes, and being the Campus Ministries President. My priorities have been seriously misconstrued.
God has, like always, changed my perspective. I am recently at home, by my lonesome, while my family is camping. They are enjoying God's creation and having family bonding time while I am, for the next 72 hours, obeying one of God's commands:
I Corinthians 10:31
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do it all to the glory of God"
by devoting all of my time in between basic hygiene practices, sleep, and eating to papers and studying for midterms. Yep, it's going to be a great weekend.
Pray for me.
I still have a lot of praying, packing, and prioritizing.
Psalm 40: 2-3
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
Did you know that it can take 16 hours to travel from Marion, Ala. to Excelsior Springs, Mo.?
Well, now you know and, boy, do Bethany Rush, Frances Ford, and I know too well.
We passed through Memphis, St. Louis, and 7 hours of Missouri farmland in a rented Impala (ya, we do it in style) to reach our destination, The Elms Hotel. A very creepy establishment.
Think of the Tower of Terror at Disney World; include the low ceilings, antique paintings, always smiling attendants, and small rooms. Yep, if an elevator attendant would have greeted me when the doors opened, I would have stayed somewhere else. Seriously, Bethany started quoting The Shining. I couldn't sleep the last night there.
Why this establishment and what for? The establishment, I don't know? What for? Two reasons: Missing classes for a week :) and a weeklong conference on community development. The course is called the Community Development Academy (creative title, right?) and it was brought to us by the University of Missouri Extension Offices.
It's one of my passions to unify people, to not let anyone feel left out.
It's an even greater passion to do this for God's kingdom.
A community development conference that focuses on bringing people together so they can help each other sounded like a good place to be.
We arrived a day late and missed our first session, which only made things more awkward, but I quickly saw the assortment of awesomeness on the various round tables in our classroom -snickers, milky ways, playdoh, pipecleaners, etch-a-sketches, and a 3 inch ring binder filled with 3 semester hours worth of lectures, powerpoints, and community development strategies. This made life better.
I enjoyed my endless supply of coffee, cokes, chocolate, and playdoh. All given in efforts to keep us awake.
Why would we need such things to keep us awake?
3 semester hours were crammed into a week.
3 hours. One week.
Intimidation is not the word to describe what I felt. Not only did we have to learn 3 semester hours worth of community development coolness, but Bethany and I were the youngest people there.
As a junior in college, I have just scratched the surface of the "real world" and it's scary. To know that there is so much need in the world is really daunting. Knowing that not everyone is a Christian is extremely daunting.
Not everyone is a Christian? What?
Ya, I have known this for a long time. It just really hit me hard last week. This was the first event that I have been to that wasn't sponsored by some Christian organization.
Talk about diversity.
There were Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, and other Christians there, however, having to walk on egg shells so as not to offend anybody was tough. The toughest part was that they weren't bad people. We are all working for the common good. The only difference-eternal destination.
I am called as a Christian to love everyone and treat them with respect. It was hard at times. And, I wasn't used to the surroundings-that made things harder.
God showed up, though. He made His way into a conversation every day. He gave me someone in our Franklin group to relate to and not feel so alone (since Bethany and I were separated on the first day :/). Going from a Christian campus to the world was a challenge. It taught me a lesson, though.
For instance, our Franklin groups.
The State of Franklin is a made up state with made up counties, people, and problems that we had to correct. One problem, we had 5 one hour long sessions to put all of our predispositions and differences aside to make our county into a utopia.
The county group I was put into was Spruce. Our motto, "Spruce it up, Spruce". Catchy, right?
The assimilation was fun. We worked together as a team. We applied the strategies we learned on a day-to-day basis. By the end of the week we saved babies, increased economic development by 100%, created unity within a black and white community, and successfully made our utopia.
Sometimes being tolerable of differences is the best way of representing God. Not to condone them, but tolerate just enough to show how merciful and understanding God truly is.
It worked in our Franklin and small groups. And, by the end of the week people knew that I was a Christian.
I guess not only did this conference teach me about community development and how to truly unify people, but it taught me different ways to represent, glorify, and talk about God.