Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August Update

We are just a few short weeks away from move-in at Ohio University, and the staff and students at ROC are eagerly anticipating this exciting opportunity to meet new students. Along with a new year of ministry (ROC’s 42nd and the beginning of my 4th) comes a rush of outreach events, social gatherings, and pizza parties all planned in an effort to connect with students as they arrive on campus for the first time.

Dodger with students from Ripley
Church of Christ (Mani & Franki Harrah
and Shelby Anderson) who were part of
ROC summer mission team. 
I’m asking all of our supporters and ministry partners to pray for our staff and student leaders during this very important time. Please pray for meaningful connections to be made and for God to be glorified through our outreach efforts. While our outreach never stops, the first few weeks after students arrive on campus tend to be some of the most fruitful.

From my time with ROC, I’ve observed that the ebb and flow of students entering and leaving the ministry is one of the most bittersweet parts of the job. Each year we say good-bye to students who have been influential parts of the community, while preparing to meet those who will shape the face of the ministry for the next several years. We prayerfully watch those who depart, excited to see where God leads them, even as we eagerly anticipate the students we will be investing in over the course of the coming years. This cycle is repeated year after year. Thankfully, the constant is, and has always been, God’s faithfulness.

Sometimes we are blessed to walk alongside students for four or more years, sometimes the blessing comes in knowing them for just a season. In this month’s student spotlight, you’ll hear about the latter. Reagan entered Ohio University as a freshman last year and got involved with ROC very early on. During her second semester at OU she went through ROC’s leadership training in preparation to serve the community this fall. But God had something different planned for Reagan. Reagan spent the summer serving at a church camp in Idaho. While there she made the decision to transfer to Lincoln Christian University this fall. As I mentioned before, while we are sad to see our friend go, we are excited to see what God is doing in and through her life, and are blessed to know that ROC played a role in God’s design for her.
2017 Adventure Camp students with ROC Students at Old Man's Cave 
In the coming weeks I am certain that we will be meeting the students who will be helping us carry out our mission of impacting the campus of Ohio University in the name of Jesus Christ for a new generation. Our supporters have always played an all-important role in this process. First, as many of you are aware, our cookie outreach is one of the most successful outreach events we hold each year. Because of your commitment to this event in baking and supplying cookies, we have been affectionately named “the cookie people” on campus. It’s amazing to see what a homemade cookie (something familiar) can mean to students during an overwhelmingly hectic time like move-in (something unfamiliar). It’s equally remarkable to hear how many of our current students’ ROC stories begin with “well I first heard about ROC when someone gave me a bag of cookies.”

Secondly, our supporters provide for the needs of the ministry both prayerfully and financially. There would be no outreach, no student org, and no ROC community without people just like you. For this reason, each month we include a student spotlight like Reagan’s so you can see the real impact that your support is making in the individual lives of our community members. I am eternally grateful for your encouragement, prayers, and commitment to seeing lives changed. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Update

2017 New Orleans Mission Team
Well 2,000 miles, a busted tire, a bad alternator, and plenty of laughter and tears later, we are back from our summer mission trip. It never ceases to amaze me at what a week of service can mean to a group of people. This past week was no exception.  We took a group of 37 people, ranging in age from 13 to 50, representing 7 different churches, with students from 5 different schools all the way to New Orleans and back. On paper this may sound like a recipe for a bad reality TV show, but in actuality, one of the biggest blessings of the trip was to see 37 individuals come together to form one team with a common purpose.

I have to admit that I love any opportunity I have to take students out on mission, but summer trips are special to me in that it’s a chance to see our ROC students serving alongside a multi-generational team. Providing ROC students with the opportunity to serve, worship, and learn alongside folks from our supporting churches has been a goal of the ROC staff the past few years. Affording students these experiences allows them to recognize the diversity within the Body of Christ as well as better understand their importance and place within the Church.

Another reason this past week was so special to me was because it was an opportunity for me to see two of my students serving in their official capacity as Interns for Crossroads Missions. Aerin Hemsath (ROC’s incoming President) and Sara Schenkelberg (a former student of mine from Middleport) have both been serving in New Orleans since late May this year.  Aerin has carved out some time to share about her experiences this summer with us in the attached Student Update. Make sure you check that out.
Dodger with Crossroads Interns
Aerin Hemsath (left) and
Sara Schenkelberg (right)

I’m not sure if it was the mission trip, ROC students serving all over the country this summer, or maybe just the excitement that comes with a new academic year fast approaching, but I truly believe that God has big things in store for the ministry of ROC this fall. There is a “buzz” of excitement within the group for the upcoming year that is contagious. God is definitely on the move in the lives of those within our community as well as in the lives of the people that we have come in contact with lately. I can tell you that I’m not ordinarily an overly emotional person, but hearing stories last week of the good that God was working in the lives of our mission team moved me to tears multiple times.

I am so incredibly thankful for the many rich bonds and friendships that we share with supporters and partners just like you, which are making an eternal impact in the lives of our students. Thank you once again for many prayers lifted up on our behalf and for the continued faithful partnership with our community. I appreciate each one of you more than you will ever know.



PS Check out the video from our week in New Orleans in the link below. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

June Update

A question I hear a lot from friends and supporters of the ministry of ROC is “what happens in the ROC community during the summer?” This is actually an excellent question as the pace of life in Athens and the university definitely slows down after commencement. In addition to the shorter lines at Chipotle, additional parking, and much quieter streets, summer certainly has some distinct advantages for the ministry. Here are some ways we try to take advantage of summer.
ROC president Aerin Hemsath
serving in New Orleans with
Crossroads Missions this summer
First, summer is a great time to connect with incoming students. Each June ROC is busy working Bobcat Student Orientation in order to be some of the first people to welcome students to Ohio University. During this process we get to meet new students and their families as well as begin collecting contact information that our ROC leaders will later use to reach out to students as they begin to arrive on campus.

In the same way summer is a convenient time to follow up on connections that our supporting churches facilitate. We love opportunities to meet students and families long before move-in. Our churches play a key role in helping us to identify and connect with incoming freshmen. So if you have a student coming our way, let us know. We spend lots of time in coffee houses and pizza places meeting new faces.

In addition to the connections that happen here on campus, we also mobilize to connect with students and churches. As I write this update I am preparing for a week of camp at OVCA where several of our ROC student leaders will be assisting me in working with senior high students. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to first connect with our ministry. ROC’s ongoing commitment to camps, conventions like Ohio Teens for Christ, and high school retreats has been very beneficial to us in inviting new students into the ministry each fall.

Another way we mobilize during the summer is through mission / service work. One key value that we have for missions at ROC is to be able to serve alongside multi-generational teams. We strongly desire for our ROC students to serve alongside people of all ages and backgrounds. Although this can be difficult to accomplish in the winter and spring for those not on the OU academic calendar, summer is a fantastic time to do just that. This July ROC students will be assisting me in leading a group that spans from teenagers to older adults back to New Orleans to serve.

Speaking of mobility, ROC students are certainly on the go! One thing that makes my heart soar is seeing students embrace opportunities to serve the Kingdom. As I’ve mentioned in previous updates we have several students who have committed their summer to serving in different ministries from Idaho to New Orleans. As amazing as this is, the reach of the ROC community is far broader than even this. Many of our students who are out on internships and other full time non-ministry jobs are making an impact in the areas where they are laboring. I am equally as proud of the students who are embracing their role as a “missionary” to the jobs they are holding this summer.

Dodger with ROC Students and
 former campers that served as faculty
 during high school week of camp.
So as you can see, while it might appear that summer is “down-time” for ROC, in many ways summer lays an important foundation for the things that will be happening in Athens this fall. While the ROC staff and leaders certainly take advantage of times to invest in their families and rest during the summer, the ministry of ROC continues. With that in mind we want to say “thank you” to all those who pray for and support our community through these all important summer months. Your faithfulness to our students and the ministry of ROC never ceases to both humble and amaze me.

Many Blessings,


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May Update

ROC Intern Bobby Oakley
May the Fourth be with you! This is Bobby your ROC intern (yes, ROC had an intern) here to give you an outsider’s view on the impact ROC has made in the last academic year. I will start with a little bit about myself. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana and have lived there all my life. A part of my life is Hurricane Katrina which put my family’s life and mine on hold for a few months as we were homeless. But, God works beauty into the most numbing parts of our lives in ways we can barely comprehend. More on my story later, let’s look at how your ROC students have been impacting their campus and our world.

Beginning on our recap is the fall semester. The fall semester is a time of new beginnings and new relationships. This is the perfect time for evangelism on OU’s campus. ROC holds many different outreach events during fall which include: the free cookie outreach, the Halloween party hotdog giveaway and pizza party. I wanted to point out that these evangelistic events are uniquely done by your ROC students. We traditionally think of evangelism as spreading the Gospel by word of mouth and images of people standing on street corners with a megaphone as onlookers pass by as quickly as possible to avoid them. Your students do something quite different.

What is the difference that makes your students so unique? It’s their culture. Let’s look at what they did during Halloween. On the closest Saturday near Halloween, Athens has their annual Halloween block party where revelers on campus party. ROC does not support their actions, but they do support the safety of the students. What ROC does during this period is share Christ through the giving of a hotdog. But, what they also do is to try to make sure those students make it home safely. This Halloween 1,000 hotdogs were given out freely. Your ROC students potentially helped 1,000 of their fellow students make it home safely through the use hotdogs and showed that God cared about them. The service your ROC students performed for their fellow students is what is so unique! Their evangelism was service. How common is it that when we do things out of what God wants for us that he still tries to keep us safe whether we acknowledge it or even want it? Your students showed God’s love for their fellow students through service. Is that not Christ-like?

Your students’ evangelistic service does not end there. They impact their campus and also their surrounding area. They went to Columbus, Ohio to assist Lifeline Christian Missions where they assembled packages with supplies for missionaries all over the world. Imagine that, serving the servers. Also, your students of the grad group participated in the GoodWorks walk for the homeless where they raise awareness and money for those experiencing homelessness. Your students serve at home and also around the world. During winter break your students flew to the Dominican Republic to minister the children there. These students make impacts abroad. Following their service in the Dominican, ROC travelled to New Orleans during their spring break to work with CrossRoads Missions.

This is where I come in again. I encountered ROC for the first time when they came to New Orleans in the summer of 2015. You see, I was an intern for CrossRoads Missions. That summer was one of the best in my life, and your students had such an impact on me. Many of your students were very relational, and I immediately felt like a part of their group when I was with them. I never met a group as passionate about service as my own Church. They impacted me so much that I decided I wanted to travel across the states to intern in Ohio in the dead of winter just to be with these people. I wanted to be a part of what they were doing and serve together with them. This brings us back to our spring service trip.

Part of the ROC community during
the annual Year-End Bash
This spring break with your students was just as rewarding as the summer I met them. We were able to replace an entire floor for a family whose husband was hurt at no cost to the family. We did home repair to other houses that were being used as affordable housing for people such as those with disabilities or disadvantaged parents. On another day, we were able to minister to the homeless of New Orleans by praying over them and giving them meals. Throughout our entire time serving the New Orleans community your students built relationships and showed the people we worked with God’s love for them. Your students evangelized with love and service yet again, and their mark on these people could be seen in all the thank you’s, the smiles, the hugs, and the laughter your students received. All of this was so reminiscent of when I met everyone for the first time. At the end of our trip, it was nice to know that I didn’t have to tell them goodbye, but I would be returning back with them to Ohio.

To top off my times in Ohio and with the ROC community was the Ohio Teens For Christ (OTFC) convention. This event was lead by none other than the Dodger Vaughan, campus minister of ROC. I never had a chance to be a part of an event this large before so it was very exciting. This event attracted over 500 youth and their ministers. This is an event that helps encourage youth in their walk with God and where their ministers can come to get better equipped to help their students. There were workshops for students and youth ministers that helped them with their ministries. There was also a service objective to raise money for clean drinking water in Africa. It was all very encouraging to watch what Dodger and his students do.

At the end of my internship, I like to think and ponder about how none of this would have happened if Katrina had not occurred. If not for Katrina I would not have been able to meet CrossRoads and be offered an internship by them. I would not have been able to work alongside ROC that summer and ask for an internship that would ultimately lead me to Ohio to tell you these things today. ROC’s culture of evangelizing through service is quite infectious, and it is what led me here. Thank you for reading and thank you for your investments in your ROC students. Without it I would not have been able to meet them, and they would not have been able to make the impact on me that they did. I thank God for that.

-Robert “Bobby” Oakley III