Though it may sound strange, I would describe the last couple of months since my marriage as cyclones of blessings. Nothing has been bad—in fact, quite the opposite, everything has been VERY good. However, we have had so many VERY good things back to back to back, all of which have taken up large quantities of time, that about one week ago when things finally slowed back down, I was left just sitting, catching my breath, wondering what had happened the last couple of months. To share them with you briefly…
Right before our wedding, things had been exceptionally busy. The week of our honeymoon was the week before college classes, which is usually one of my busiest planning weekends since the first week of college holds the Picnic in the Quad promotional event at Fort Hays State University (I have a booth there for our ministry, one for the Aikido school, one for The Gamers Guild, and I help there with the college Aikido club), our ministry puts on ‘The Welcoming Event’ (formerly ‘Get Plugged In’) at the university, we have the first Unite Game Night of the year, and the first large promotional card tournament of the year. As such, I had a lot of make-up work the week or two before the wedding for the planning week that I would soon miss. On top of that, we closed on our house at 10 am on Tuesday, July 30th. Since I had to move out of my existing apartment that very day, it led to a hectic move; I also had been contacted by some international students since the dorms hadn’t opened but their rental agreements ended the next evening. As such, the day after chucking my belongings into a house very haphazardly, I got some great friends to help me move some international college students’ items up to the Aikido school along a wall. One of them needed a place to stay, and my house was not yet livable, so we stayed up at the dojo on the couches that night. The next day, we moved all of their stuff into the dorms. All during this time and the rest of the time until the wedding, I was finishing the work of closing on a house and fixing it up, moving into the house, helping with final wedding plans, and trying to get makeup work done for the ministry time we’d miss ON TOP OF maintaining our existing ministry projects (we still had game nights, small groups, etc.); you get the picture—though all of the things happening were beyond amazingly good, it was nuts! Once we got to the big day, I felt that the wedding went very well, as did Tella, and we had a great time afterwards with family and friends and then with our honeymoon. It was strange slowing down to such a dead stop after so ridiculously much had been happening, but Tella and I enjoyed the time VERY greatly! The honeymoon, like so many other things right before our wedding, almost fell together perfectly in front of us (thank God for His providence!) One of my Aikido students in Plainville has a dad who has a cabin near Leadville, Colorado, and they make a habit of letting friends of the family use it for just $15 per night; this is a NICE two-story cabin with an in-door Jacuzzi bath, two fireplaces, and a deck with a pretty view of the mountain evenings. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed adventuring with my new wife in the small mountain towns and retiring there to rest. It was a wonderful week!
We returned to Hays late Saturday night, and then we went from zero to one hundred miles per hour almost instantly! We finished settling a few things in and then moved all of Tella’s items into our house and got ready for the first day of college. The Picnic in the Quad event was good for getting the word out (we did get one new small group bible study member and several new interested Aikido students plus a LOT of new attendees at our Unite Game Night). The Welcoming Event was smaller than usual, but it was still a good chance to interact with college students and welcome them to the community in the name of Christ. We had a few staple churches come and all of the college ministries turned out, but a few churches that usually come had leadership changes and/or couldn’t make it this year. Nonetheless, a couple hundred college students received free meals, free coffee, warm smiles, good conversations, and other welcoming gifts from many of the churches in Hays and all of the Christian college ministries, which, to me, is a powerful and important witness to our campus.
By then it was September, and we had several more big events including the FHSU Aikido Club seminar (which is a great time to interact with many college students), and a few very large card tournaments at The Gamers Guild. The Gamers Guild (the small card and board game shop that I started next to the dojo that has been helping us connect with many more students and community members) hosted a few major card tournaments (a prerelease tournament for a game company and several other competitive tournaments), and Unite Game Night, in turn, has had very large attendance almost every Friday night. For that first month, I had to focus more on developing The Gamers Guild and preparing for those tournaments, but now it has hit a stride, so I plan to focus more on Unite Game Night and what we can do with all of the huge influx of new gamers into our game night. (Side note: we are looking for volunteer baristas who are willing to love and serve students and possibly do relational ministry, if you know of any). We also had our usual [alt] game night (as an alternative to Oktoberfest after-parties in Hays). It was well attended, and the students there seemed to have quite a bit of fun—all the way until 7am the next day! During this time, our small group Bible studies have also grown slightly—one college student in the Aikido classes knew about our small groups and asked to join, and one knew about us through the Unite Game Nights. Each small group is still a strong community, but both could use prayer as the times we meet can be a bit challenging with everyone’s schedules being so full.
We also received a very surprising and direct answer to prayer over this time. My parents and several others have been praying that God provide financially for me more heavily than He has been. His existing providence has been more than sufficient for all basic needs. However, it is true that it has been perpetually tight since I started missionary work, and they wanted to see more money coming in to help out. Thanks to God for a direct answer to prayers! A couple received an inheritance and they wanted to send some of it to an in-state missionary instead of just supporting overseas efforts. They decided to send it to support me and the work here in Hays. In effect, as long as existing donations continue through December, it has raised my salary in the 2013 year from 1/3 of a starting youth pastor’s salary to a full starting youth pastor’s salary for the year; this is a HUGE difference! It has completely changed the landscape here for both Tella and me. It took me from a long slow process of paying off my remaining $4,000 in student loans to having no debt whatsoever except for the house. It also helped with some surprise medical expenses that came up and allowed Tella and I to set aside some of the money as a ‘blessings fund’, which we have already started using to bless some local individuals when needs arise that can’t be met by some of the existing systems in place in Hays. It is very exciting to have some money set aside to bless others with and the ability to start saving up ourselves for our own needs as they arise. Thank God for answered prayers and thanks again to that couple for such a tremendous blessing! Please keep in prayer that God provide more long-term supporters for us; if my salary were regularly closer to my goal (a starting youth pastor’s salary), it would open up several new ministry windows that we’ve wanted to take advantage of but don’t have the finances for! Thanks again for your prayers and your patience during this overly-busy time in life; I plan to get back to keeping you all more regularly in the loop (your prayers are VERY important for us!), and I look forward to sharing more soon in next month’s newsletter!