Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good Search and Shop

Perhaps you've heard the buzz about Good Search.  If not, check out this video from Fox News (there are others from ABC and CBS as well).  It's a simple way of giving to non-profits by simply searching the web or shopping online.

If you haven't yet, you can do your Christmas shopping online through Good Shop and a portion of your purchase will be donated to a charity of your choice.  In the section under the question: "Who do you support?" simply type "Reach Out on Campus (Athens, OH)" and shop at one or more of the variety of retailers including: Saks, Nike, Target, Walmart, Apple Store, Ebay, FTD, JC Penny, LL Bean, Best Buy and many others.

There is no additional charge to you for shopping online through Good Search.  Some of the stores have even agreed to increase their giving to your charity of choice during this Christmas season.  Something to consider as an optional way of giving this season.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas letter

Dear Friends,

A homeless man came by one day. He looked me over. Imagine that, he looked me over. I’d heard about him from some of the other folks in town. They say that he’s the product of promiscuity. His mother wasn’t married when he was conceived. That didn’t really bother me though. People have said a lot worse about me.

His dress wasn’t much to speak of. The clothes were plain and rather dirty with a couple of holes here and there. I’ve thrown out clothes better than what he was wearing. Rather strange that there was such a hoopla about this guy. He had been teaching in the area and was beginning to gain some notoriety. What happened next took me by surprise.

“Follow me.” It was a simple phrase but rather shocking. I had a house, nice clothes, a rather lucrative job and he was asking me to leave it all and follow him; this homeless teacher. I know it may sound ridiculous to you but I did it. I followed him. Since then my life has been completely changed. People have a hard time believing that a traitorous tax collector could change. But Jesus has completely remade me. Let me share with you some of the words from the beginning of the book I wrote:

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18-25)
This is a fantastic story. Many do not believe it. I’m sure you know people who live right next door to you who do not believe that this is in any way possible. But I assure you that it is. God truly is with us. He came to be with us in the person of Jesus and even though Jesus died on a cruel Roman cross He still lives. As a result we all have a life option. There is hope both now and always. There is nothing to fear and it is completely possible to change. I know. Jesus asked me to follow Him. He has asked you too.

Jesus’ call is constant. Even when we feel defeated, frightened and concerned about the future of our world, Jesus calls us to Himself and shines light into darkness and hope into hopelessness. Jesus will save his people from their sins. What a glorious story to tell to all. I trust you will keep the story going even as Jesus trusted us to start it after He ascended to heaven.

Blessings,
Matthew

Thanks for indulging my imagination a bit. This is a great time of the year for us all to express the truth of Jesus with all our friends, family and strangers. Thank you for your partnership with us in spreading the Good News here in Athens and around the world.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Reach Out on Campus!



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Glorifying Jesus

November 2009 E-update

“Thank you Lord for the incredible, life-changing experiences we have had as a community this quarter. Continue to work through us next quarter as we seek to live for you and glorify Jesus.” This is my paraphrase of a ROC student leader’s prayer during our study break celebration on Monday 11/16/09. It has indeed been an incredible quarter filled with service, outreach, community building and worship.

Several ROC students began the quarter by helping other students move in to residence halls. They continued their service through helping raise money for Habitat for Humanity through the annual “Cardboard City” event. Weekly several students also helped with the Athens Church of Christ Community Meals program and this past month our undergraduate students also provided a meal for the Good Works Friday Night Supper. One response from a student who helped with the Good Works meal was, “I loved the time eating with the folks at Friday Night Supper. Though I thought I would be really uncomfortable, it was a really great time. I want to know if I can just go there anytime.”

Weekly students have also met for worship at Cross Walk as well as spent time together reading, engaging and seeking to apply the scriptures through small groups. Graduate students and faculty have also met weekly and grown in relationships and service. One of the faculty fellowship members, Richard Klabunde, spoke at our fall retreat and has been leading worship times with our graduate students on Monday nights.

Students have stepped outside their comfort zones time and again through these times of service or in reaching out to others through a hot dog give away and holding a Cross Walk on campus rather than in the comfort of the ROC House. This group of students has formed a dynamic solid community that is loving and caring. They have taken strides in their relationships with each other and with Jesus. It has indeed been a wonderful thing to watch, encourage and of which to be part.

Thank you for your prayers for us this quarter as we have sought to be Jesus’ followers together here at OU. Thank you also for your faithful financial support without which we could not continue to dedicate ourselves to these fine people who are together extending Christ’s grace and love to those around them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Connecting Dots & One Anothering

October 2009 E-update


I enjoyed “connect the dots” books when I was a kid. I liked to see what the picture would become. Sometimes it was obvious—that’s a dog. Sometimes not. If you could draw lines and count, you could connect the dots and discover the “hidden” picture.


This fall’s Cross Walk teaching theme is “Connect the Dots.” According to Wikipedia, the phrase can refer to the picture game or the ability (or inability) to associate one idea with another.

I’ve been challenging students to consider how the ideas expressed in ROC’s purpose and values statement connect with our individual lives and our life as an organization. We have been considering how to live out these ideas in such a way as to bring Jesus glory.


One tangible expression of our attempt to “connect the dots” this quarter was our fall retreat. Through the theme “One Another One Another,” Chris MacNeal, Richard Klabunde and I encouraged the students to be a community that loves one another, is devoted to one another and serves one another. As the students continue to implement these thoughts relationships are growing. Please pray with us that the students will grow in their ability to nurture and challenge one another to grow in relationship with Jesus and each other.

On Wednesday, October 21, we held Cross Walk in Baker Center. I was interested in seeing how that would work logistically but also how students would react to the change. The particular room that we used was less than ideal for what we normally do at Cross Walk. During our prayer time we break down into smaller groups and usually disperse around the ROC House for prayer. Because we didn’t have the extra space students went outside of the room and prayed in various parts of Baker Center. The reactions of our students were mixed. Several students did not feel comfortable outside the ROC House—some due to the small room others because we weren’t in the ROC House. Others were excited to be able to be more “in public” with their faith and are excited about the possibility of growing beyond the ROC House. Please pray as we continue to seek to glorify Jesus wherever we find ourselves in the OU community.

Thanks so much for your part in enabling us to serve with these fine young people and faculty members here in Athens. God is on the move and we’re excited to be part of that here at OU!

Selfless Service in September!

September 2009 E-update

It started with 3 very full days of moving people into the residence halls Sept. 3-5. We gave away 1,300 baggies of cookies to students as they passed by our table (THANK YOU to all those who made cookies) and we moved in many, many students. Parents and others were surprised to find out that we were volunteering our time to help them move in to the “front four” residence halls on South Green.


“Why would you do that?” “Thank you so much!” “Who would volunteer for this?” These were among the comments I heard as students, staff and volunteers committed over 200 hours to moving people into residence halls. We freely explained that we were serving as an expression of our love for Jesus and to say welcome to Ohio University. It was an honor and a privilege to help.

Throughout this month the students have also been very active in helping with the Athens Church of Christ Community Meals program. They serve, eat with the community folks who come for the meal and they clean up. ROC students have been wonderful examples of service.

Most recently that has been demonstrated as they worked together to construct a cardboard house for the Habitat for Humanity fundraising project, “Cardboard City.”


Unknown to our students, Habitat supplied large pieces of thick cardboard (which our students did use as roofing) and many groups constructed highly decorated houses, castles and other exciting edifices. Not one, however, was made of simple cardboard boxes gathered from area businesses, made to keep the rain out and stay standing all night long. The ROC students, however, constructed such a fortress. Having gathered cardboard boxes from Court St. and other businesses, they spent hours configuring the corrugated containers into a large cabin that housed four of the courageous contractors for the night. Some of the houses built by others toppled but the ROC condo stood firm.

As usual for the beginning of the school year, the approximately 50 undergraduate students that have been getting together for ROC activities this fall have been spending time getting to know each other in Cross Walk, Bible studies, and social activities. But this group of students is also keen to serve others. They have a heart for service and I am encouraged and excited to see them grow in their service. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for October!

You are Welcome Here!

August 2009 E-update

I had gotten away from the group and was off on my own for a little while exploring the ruins of Castle Karak, a crusader castle in the country of Jordan. I was amazed at its size; it is huge. As I rounded a corner I came face to face with a Jordanian soldier also exploring the castle ruins. Though in his uniform, he was obviously off duty. We politely greeted one another and then he said, “You are American.” I told him that I was and he said something to me I will always remember. “You are welcome here.” I thanked him and we both went on exploring the castle.


I know it seems like a simple phrase but I was far from home in strange surroundings and there were many other things that he could have said. The welcome came as a bit of a surprise. It was a pleasant surprise; really a blessing.

On Thursday (9/3) new students will begin arriving here in Athens. Moms and Dads will leave their sons and daughters in Athens. For some of these new students it will be their first experience away from home for any significant amount of time. Some will exalt that they are now on their own away from the folks’ watchful eye. They will rejoice to make decisions their own way reflecting who they want to be here at university. Others will immediately be homesick. While they may continue contact with friends through Facebook and texting, it’s not quite the same when they’re eating alone in the cafeteria.

For all of the students at OU, new and returning, the ROC community hopes to be a group of people that says, “You are welcome here.” Whether by helping students move in to their residence halls Thursday through Saturday, or giving away cookies at the water station, welcoming students to OU at the ROC table during the student activities resource fair on Labor Day, or providing free pizza at the ROC intro meeting later that night, we will express welcome in Jesus’ name and invite them into community with us.

During the quarter, we will continue to extend welcome to students and faculty at our Wednesday night Cross Walk meetings, our Monday night small groups and our Wednesday afternoon faculty fellowship lunches. A simple expression can make a significant impact on those far from home in strange surroundings. It is an attempt to bless.

Thank you for what you do to make these various expressions of welcome possible. You are a blessing to us!

Summer Things

July 2009 E-update


The summer is a time to enjoy sun, family, friends, hopefully take a vacation, and get refreshed by the change in schedule. Yet, as I begin this e-update near the end of July, I am struck with the fact that transfer student orientation is past (7/23) and new student orientation began on Monday (7/27). Fall is apparently right around the corner. Yikes!


At the end of spring quarter the undergraduate student leaders got together and planned the fall calendar. That’s done. But the logistical work of getting those planned events actually executed continues. We will once again be helping with fall move-in. The OU department of Residential Housing (new named formed when Residence Life and Housing were joined) has invited us to help move students into their residence halls Sept. 3-5 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day. We’ve been collecting information from students and others interested in helping with that service to the university community. Interested in helping? Email me (tesker@ohio.edu) soon as the director needs to know very soon how many people will be helping from our group.

Along with the move-in will be cookie give-away. Letters will be sent soon requesting cookies. If you would like to help provide cookies for us to give away to the new students as an expression of welcome, please let me know. We need the cookies by Sept. 1.

In the midst of the preparations for fall, however, summer ministry continues. Graduate students still get together weekly at my home for our time of study, fellowship and prayer. We are using a study guide examining self-control. The study addresses various areas of life in which we need to practice this fruit of the Spirit. In addition to this weekly group, I have been involved in 1on1 conversations and prayer with students and faculty.

Aug. 1-5 one of our undergraduate student leaders and I will go to the University of Southern Indiana where the National Association of Christian Campus Ministries will hold the national student conference. This conference has always proven to be a time of challenge, encouragement and refreshment. We trust it will once again.

Thank you once again for your prayers for this ministry especially as we look toward fall ministry and carry out the ministry of summer as well. God bless you for your partnership in prayer and financial support!

Transitioning


June 2009 E-update

“The thing that amazes me is that there will not even be a gap in our health insurance. Kim’s ends on June 30 and mine begins on July 1. God has amazed us with his provision.” In this portion of an email exchange with Eric, he described to me God’s gracious care for Kim and him as they settle back into West Virginia and Eric begins his new job with the Farm Bureau.


When Eric told me last August that he and Kim had decided to move back home, one of the things that he said was that he believed God had brought them to this point and that God was at least o.k. with this decision. Eric wanted to finish well and hoped that God would take care of things. God has indeed taken care of things. Eric completed his service with ROC June 12, Eric and Kim sold their house during spring quarter, just as they were packing this month Eric was offered a new job with the Farm Bureau, he started that job on Tuesday (June 23) and now he has learned that even their medical coverage won’t lapse. God is good and gracious.

At a potluck celebrating Eric and Kim’s time in Athens, many stories were shared of the love and care the Thomasons shared with students and many others. The words were expressed verbally through stories, in writing via a book of letters and through pictures as a framed collage of several pictures was also signed by those in attendance. Eric’s hope to finish well was accomplished. But it doesn’t end there.


The ROC board and I have been working on the staff transition for some time. Mid-way through June, Jared Ott accepted the position of Assistant Campus Minister with Reach Out on Campus. Jared and his wife, Crystal, were both ROC student leaders when they attended OU as undergrads. In an email Jared stated, “We are excited about this next phase of our lives in ministry, and look forward to ‘coming home’ in many ways.” Jared will join ROC staff in January at 3/4 time as he completes his Master of Divinity degree during the 2009-2010 school year (he will have class work in TN during fall 2009).

God is faithful. He led Eric and Kim to this decision and has consistently provided each step of the way. He has enabled Eric to finish the year well and has provided a new staff member for ROC. What a blessing to serve a God who is such a gracious provider. Thank you for being part of His provision to us!