This past month has been rather wild with seemingly back-to-back-to-back events. And I have loved every minute of it. Not that it's been easy--one thing God's been continually teaching me is that ministry isn't easy, but I've seen how God has used me and H2O to impact lives and I'm grateful to be a part of this ministry.
The Plunge / Life Group
This event was supposed to happen at the end of August and be a part of Blitz Week and thus my last newsletter, but becasuse the weather chose not to cooperate with us, we had to postpone The Plunge for a week. If you don't know what The Plunge is, it is essentially our Life Group kickoff event to get people connected and plugged into our church and the small groups we offer. The secondary purpose of it, however, is to worship publically and make our church visible to the entire campus. So, we host this event outside in the middle of UC's campus. We rented out a small amphitheater area in Sigma Sigma Commons (the biggest green space on campus), set up our sound equipment, made a small stage, and then continued to have a worship night coupled with one of our staff members giving his testimony and Grant preaching the gospel. To be frank, I wasn't expecting that much from this event. It's still rather new and the previous two years went well but they weren't anything memorable in my opinion. Something was different this year, though. Maybe it was the location change, moving from a corner of campus to a more central space. Maybe it was the atmosphere created by 160 voices prasing God together outside on a public campus. Or, maybe--just maybe--it was God doing something incredible on our campus and through the freshmen who joined us for worship.
The freshmen who have gotten involved with H2O are another story and one that has encouraged me a ton over the past month. When I think about the purpose of The Plunge and what made it so successful, it's the fruit I've seen in every Life Group this year--especially in Morgen's LG (the one I lead). We have had so many freshmen coming to our Life Group who are at all stages of their walk with the Lord and are yearning to know him deeper and learn about his love. So many great questions are being asked that take us down random tangents (we've learned to embrace the tangent) and the community is growing closer with every passing week. On top of the freshmen who are attending, we have also been blessed with some upper classmen and graduates who are choosing to come to our Life Group. This diversity is an answered prayer and has been really awesome to see how a group of people with nothing in common but Jesus can come together as a family.
Arguably the BIGGEST event of the fall semester, Fall Getaway, is a great time for growing closer in relationship with God and with community. So, while what I said above about Life Group was true before Fall Getaway, after Fall Getaway the group grew exponentially closer than it was before. The reason being that Fall Getaway forces community to happen since we were three hours away from Cincy in the middle of the woods unable to escape one another. Therefore, the conversation I was in with a group of a people until 4:30 in the morning was possible since no one had anything better to do. Was I dead the next day? 100%, but I've never once heard someone say I wish that conversation wouldn't have happened for the sake of the my sleep. And from what I've gathered, a lot of those conversations and/or late night hangouts happened on Friday night.
Outside of Friday night, one of the other big community builders is always the H2O Olympics where the Life Groups are pinned against each other in a series of games. Unfortunatly, no UC team won and H2O Indiana's Central Team wiped the floor with us in three of the five events. But the best part about the Olympics isn't winning, but the team building aspect the events bring that allows anyone and everyone to compete.
The main sessions that take place on Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday night are the last key component of fall getaway. One of Grant's best friends flew in from Texas to speak at each of the sessions and Tory is easily one of the most engaging speakers I've ever heard. He spoke at Fall Getaway two years ago and somehow managed to top the sermons given there. This year, he took us through the Sermon on the Mount and focused heavily on how the Old Testament links into Jesus' teachings and what truly enables our salvation, which is the grace of God. Not anything we can do or think we can offer to God. Personally, the biggest takeaway I had was from the Friday night service when he spoke over the beatitudes. Tory spent half his sermon going over the verse "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God" and spoke heavily about how we often fail to see be poor in spirit because it's so easy for us to go through life without realizing our need for God in America. His words brought me back to my time in Africa where I saw people who had no where else to turn, who realized how truly hopeless they were without God at the center of their lives. They couldn't afford to have him anywhere else or to worship the created rather than the creator. For them, it wasn't a matter of simply trying to find something to put their hope in, but realizing Christianity is a religion, a way of life, for those who realize how utterly hopeless they are without God and accept the hope He gives us in return.
I'll try to keep this section as brief as possible, but since H2O is a church I wanted to update all of you about how our Sunday services are going. This semester we are going through a sermon series called Storyteller, which is covering the parables of Jesus and diving into what he was saying in each of them. The parables are so unqiue in scripture (and in literature in general) and understanding them can be difficult since we must first understand what Jesus was saying to the people at the time and then what they are saying to us 2,000 years later. Thus far, the sermons on Sunday morning have been absolutely incredible and have radiated everything I love so much about this church: our preachers aren't afriad to say what scripture says no matter how deep it may cut. I've seen multiple churches today water down the gospel to make it more acceptable to everyone and H2O refueses to do that. The gospel is offensive. It preaches something completely contrary to what society does, which is that humans are sinful, flawed, and depraved beings and our only hope is God. And it's my prayer that H2O never succumbs to watering down the gospel for the sake of trying to get more people in the door. Because the moment we take away from the gospel we lose the entirety of what it's saying and the good news it's preaching.
If you would like to listen to any of the sermons from this series (or any of H2O's sermons in general), you can find all of them on H2O's website.
Where I've Been
As far as I go, this month has been filled with a lot of ups and downs but one thing that's been able to keep me grounded is Romans. I'm currently going through Romans with three different people and therefore have been forced to read each chapter over and over again--and every time I re-read it I see a different part of the picture Paul is painting about God's kingdom. I think the biggest part of Romans I'm hung up on is Romans 1, where Paul is speaking about God's righteous judgement and how we have all turned astray and worship the created rather the creator.
"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen." (Romans 1:25)
A lot of power is in that verse and has simply made me think about what areas of my life I worship the created rather than the eternal creator. It's something that is easy to not think about and overlook, but it's exactly what santification is and what God is constantly trying to prune from our walks with him. That process may not always be fun or enjoyable when you look at it with a temperal mindset, but when step back to see things in the eternal it's the most beautiful thing in the world.
Once again, I want to thank all of you who are supporting me either financially or via prayer through all of this as you are making it possible for me and the rest of H2O Cincinnati's staff team to reach the students at the University of Cincinnati. If you are not a part of my financial support team, I ask that you prayerfully consider joining me and my mission with H2O Cincinnati at a monthly amount by clicking on the "give" button on the top of your screen.