Friday, April 8, 2011

March e-update

This e-update was written by Jared Ott about the trip he and his wife, Crystal, went on with 9 undergraduate students.

As Spring finally arrives, many of you may notice the many birds who begin their migration back to newly thawed Northern locations. It may also be observed that many college students make an annual migration South about this time. For most of these students, the goal is a beach, some friends, and to have as much carefree (and often thought-free) fun as possible.

This Spring Break, Crystal and I also loaded up a car and two vans full of college students to head South. Yet, this trip had a much different goal than those of many of these student’s classmates. We were going to Johnson City, Tennessee to serve, to learn, and to fellowship.

The trip only lasted five days, two of which were primarily travel days. Yet, we still found ample opportunities to serve with local ministries. We went to a local “Coalition for Kids” organization, which provides after-school programs and care for children whose parents have to work long hours and can’t afford child care. We worked with a local Good Samaritan Ministry, which organizes and distributes aid to thousands of needy individuals over six counties in East Tennessee. We helped to prepare and serve a lunch and a breakfast meal to homeless, low income, or just plain hungry community members. We also got the chance to interact with a local “Interfaith Hospitality Network”, which provides shelter and skill counseling services for homeless families.

These many opportunities to serve were very different in many ways, and some of the students naturally fit into some more than others. We were stretched by some of the activities, and made to stop and ask questions about others. It was a chance to learn through doing, and match our faith with action.

We also had opportunities to learn in other contexts. We dropped by Emmanuel School of Religion and interacted with a few of the professors there. We also spent an evening with the Campus House at East Tennessee State University, which is a sister campus ministry to ROC. The students led devotionals along the way, and had the chance to reflect on some of their experiences. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of thinking that went on during our trip.

Finally, the students had the great opportunity to fellowship with many gracious and hospitable people during the trip. Host families from a local congregation welcomed the students into their homes for the trip. Several of the students commented on how the Campus House felt just like “ROC, only in Tennessee.” It was a wonderful demonstration of the breadth and depth of the body of Christ as we interacted with so many who were once perfect strangers, yet treated us as the dear friends that we are in Christ.

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that a fair amount of barbeque was consumed (how could one go to Tennessee and not eat BBQ?). Indeed, we were lavished with wonderful food, fellowship, and care from our brothers and sisters in Johnson City. I think you are beginning to see this was quite a full trip!

While I am excited to be able to share these experiences with you, I am even more excited to see the effect they will have on the 9 students who joined us on this trip as they seek to live and serve here at OU. We thank you for your many prayers and gifts, that make such opportunities possible! May the coming warmth of Spring also bring new opportunities for you to learn and serve wherever you find yourself!