The last couple of months have been so jam-packed with ministry and with life that I’m not quite sure where to start updating you all for prayer requests and just so that you know what all is going on! I have noticed a definite rhythm in my life that is tied to the university semester cycle due to everything that I do with college students. Towards the end of the semester and the beginning of the semester, my schedule becomes beyond overly full. Mid-semester and mid-summer (not counting right before, during and after the mission trip), things are much calmer.
Right now we are approaching the end of the semester, so we are in transition with our small group Bible studies—picking different times and locations for the summer, figuring out who is going and who is staying, and at times figuring out how to help some of the students with moving, finding jobs, and other dilemmas that come up at this time of year. It’s also the heavy time to be serving students at Unite Game Night. This upcoming Friday, we will be offering a Risk tournament for those who wish to de-stress as well as a study hall area in which we will be serving free coffee and free orange soda for those who need caffeine to help keep them going. We are also expanding Common Grounds coffee house in its location inside of The Gamers Guild. Besides adding signage, we’ve added a couple of large storage racks for our ‘free store’, a ‘faith opportunities’ space on the wall (where we can post opportunities like our small group Bible studies, other ministries and their meeting times, national day of prayer, festival of faith, etc.), and we are re-organizing the coffee house for easier brewing methods since we have at least one community member who wants trained as a barista to serve those who come to Unite Game Night.
I do want to take a quick moment to update you about our ‘free store’ (part of Common Grounds Coffee House). This is a new, small ministry initiative that I hope will become something great to serve the community as they become aware of it. It is modeled after the ‘free store’ next to Joe’s Addiction Coffee House in Valley Brook, Oklahoma. We have a sign up that says ‘you can’t steal anything in a free store’, and we have shelves loaded with quality items that individuals have given away for free to be used by anyone who has need of them. It’s kind of like a Goodwill or thrift store EXCEPT that nothing costs any money and we don’t issue receipts to those who donate items. We also occasionally receive non-perishable food donations, so it operates a bit as a food pantry. Though this may sound surprising, there are families and individuals in Hays who don’t have enough expendable income to buy some basic things. We could get into a long discussion about why that is—some of them spend their income on items like cigarettes and don’t end up with enough to eat, some spend money on TV but don’t have dishes, some are illegally in the US and can’t find jobs that pay enough for them to live on (this even includes some university students), and some have just fallen on hard times due to medical bankruptcy, job issues, or other reasons. Whatever the cause, however, people do exist who have surprisingly basic needs in Hays, and it is my sincere hope that we as a Christian community can help provide for some of them through the free store here. I know full well that many individuals in our community will not know that our small and almost hidden free store exists, but I am hoping that over time its reputation will grow among those in the community that need it. I also know that other churches, ministries, and individuals also have programs to help those in need in our community, so my goal is not to be the ‘destination’ for all in need in Hays, anyway. I only hope that our free store in Common Grounds can be an additional and unique opportunity for some of the needs in Hays that often fall through the cracks, and that we will be a visible part of the body of believers to be used as Christ wishes to reach the hearts of those He loves.
On a somewhat related note, I mentioned Common Grounds when I presented about our Mission Trip and The Welcoming Event to the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance a couple of months ago. Afterwards, one of the ECMA officers mentioned that I don’t have to be a pastor to be part of the ECMA. As such, I decided that I’d come to the next meeting and see if it felt right to come more often. I was very surprised at how good it was to be there. Several ministry topics were discussed that I found highly useful to know about, and I was also able to pass on some of the details we discussed to some pertinent ministries in Hays. For instance, I learned that Festival of Faith is pulling in a speaker from Wichita who speaks on living a life with no regrets. Off and on over the years, I’ve sat with a group of youth pastors who have brought speakers in to the school district and to the university in Hays and who have been looking to bring in another speaker. Since this fellow is already coming in, I passed the info about it to the head of the youth pastor’s group, and I hope that it may work out that they can convince him to stick around and present in the school district, as well, and that we can promote his presence at the Festival of Faith on campus.
As for prayer requests—I’ve recently had two Aikido students of mine join one of our small group Bible studies. They are excellent individuals and friends, and I pray that the community there is a good experience for them and for everyone involved. I also hope that I can work up the energy (and the time) to figure out how to help incorporate Aikido principles that are also Christian principles more clearly into our youth program and, particularly, into our scholarship program at Aikido of Northwest Kansas. It is an unfortunate truth, but it is a truth—at super-busy times like this month and last month, I barely have time to keep up with what is already running; it is much harder to spend additional planning time into coming up with high quality lessons that incorporate good moral teachings for the youth classes that I teach and to clearly present opportunities to our scholarship students that allow for growth. I don’t know where the time will/can come from, yet it really should happen. Please pray that I can better see how to more readily balance work time and rest in my life during these busy cycles, and just in general. Though the work isn’t always ‘work’ in the strictest sense (I enjoy meeting one-on-one with college students and leading small group Bible studies), there are honestly weeks in my life right now that I will have between 55 and 90 hours per weeks of scheduled time—not including things that pop up in life. Today I had to request not to meet with one of the individuals in my small group Bible study just to be able to get this newsletter printed, sealed in envelopes and mailed, and emailed out almost a week later than I intended to, and it is at the top of my backlogged priority list because I believe in the power of your prayers and believe that prayer is important to helping us out! Though these times thankfully don’t last too long, it is very difficult to keep any type of balance at the beginning and end of each semester, and if I will continue to do ministry long-term in this community (which I intend to), then I need prayer for God to help me learn a better balance of it. Your sincere prayers in this matter are greatly appreciated!
Finally, I would request prayers for those who are graduating and those who have graduated and are still working in an area outside of their degrees. This has been a frequently recurring topic in our small groups and in my one-on-one meetings. Many students are at a phase in life where they better want to find where they can fit in/belong. Others are looking for a career or job that they can find fulfillment in. Many are looking for both. At times like these it is very important to pray and ask God to help us discern where to go, but at times like this we are often busy, hard-up for cash, and have trouble making time to ask. Please pray that they hear His voice and take the time to listen to it. Thank you!