Thursday, May 29, 2014

"To infinity and beyond!"

     Yes.  We just had a Toy Story marathon recently in our home.  We watched Buzz Lightyear realize that he was just a toy.  Then we heard Woody explain just how important it was to be Andy's toy.  And we saw a relationship grow between Buzz and Woody...a relationship that lasted through the years and continued even after Andy passed on his favorite toys to a little girl named Bonnie and drove off for college.
     Every time I watch those movies, and it doesn't matter which of the three, my emotions are a mess and I cry at some point.  These movies do what good stories should.  These stories draw you into this world of talking toys, reconnect you with your own experiences (in this case with your toys) by awakening memories as well as tie you to new characters. 
     Andy reluctantly left Woody with the other toys that he gave to Bonnie.  Even in this animated movie we recognize the difficulty Andy faced in leaving behind those who helped him through so many years.  Carrying with him a heart of gratitude, he whispers, "Thanks guys," gets in his car and drives off.  The toys will miss Andy too and that is articulated as Woody watches the car drive off and he says, "So long, partner."
     The difficulty of leaving behind relationships that have meant so much is heart-rending.  The friendships and partnerships that we've been able to form over the past twenty-two years with you and here in Athens have been precious, challenging, encouraging and deeply meaningful.  There is a place in our hearts in which we mourn this transition and we sense the loss.
     However, after saying "So long," Woody begins introducing Buzz and Andy’s other toys to Bonnie’s toys.  They are together and they will continue to fulfill the important role as toys now in Bonnie's arms and imagination.  There are new adventures just around the corner!
     Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here.  I am NOT likening Reach Out on Campus to toys that I am leaving behind.  I am NOT saying that now that I have grown up, I'm leaving.  NOT AT ALL.  Rather, in spite of the fact that my family and I are leaving and that this parting is difficult, the ministry of Reach Out on Campus continues and there are great adventures about to happen.  There are students who need to be reached with Christ's love.  There is a university, probably the most strategic context for a gospel witness, that needs the prophetic voice and example of Christian community calling it to Christ; His goodness, justice and grace.  There are international students to welcome, to bless and by whom to be blessed.  There is much to be done.
     ROC continues to encourage students to grow in love and relationship with Jesus.  Students are hearing the call to Jesus and are responding.  Many students have voiced how they have grown in Christ.  Four students were baptized this year and another student made a statement renewing his commitment to Christ.  Here is what Zach shares about this decision.
     My name is Zach, and I’m a recent graduate of Ohio University.  I was a member of Reach Out on Campus for two years.  My only regret was that I wasn’t in Athens sooner so I could have been a part of ROC for all four years of college.  ROC opened up my eyes to who Christ was and the love that he has for each and every one of us.  I learned that He doesn’t hold my past sin against me.  I have accepted Him into my life and strive to follow His example of how I should live.  My fire for God grew during my time with ROC, so much that I chose to rededicate my life to Christ this April.  Everyone in ROC made me feel like a part of their community and I grew very close to them.  I am especially glad that I was a member of the worship team and men’s bible study.  ROC gave me so many tools and lessons to use to spread Christ’s message to others.  I will certainly miss it, but I definitely enjoyed my time there.  Thanks for blessing me by faithfully supporting ROC! 
Sincerely, Zach
     As ROC continues to be Jesus' hands and feet here at Ohio University, I pray that you will join me or continue with me as a ROC financial support ministry partner.  Together we seek to be used by God to enable this community to testify to His great grace and demonstrate the reality of God's kingdom present as we await Christ's return.  We really will, at that time, worship Christ together "to infinity and beyond!"  We will enjoy the reunion of partners who were loathe to part but who faithfully served God by following Jesus wherever He led embracing the adventures that came to us.  So this "so long" is not final but is simply a "See ya there or in the air!"  Until then, we'll all be faithful as Jesus' disciple-making-disciples making disciples together wherever we are.  Thank you for the ways you have enabled us to do that with ROC and for the ways we will continue to enable the ROC community to do that far into the future.
Serving with you!