Kent State University

My Love/Hate Relationship with Support Raising

Upon clicking this blog post I can be certain that people had a number of different questions as to what they were about to read. I am sure there are some who subconsciously questioned “Why does he love support raising?” or “Why does he hate support raising?”. I am sure there were those who had a more general inquiry that probably went something like this, “Why on earth is he even support raising?”. This last person I have met many times and this question (usually posed in a more polite manner) is often met with a blank or confounded stare awaiting an answer that they already surmise will not make sense to them. Nonetheless, these are valid questions, and hopefully I can answer them, but I don’t presume that you will understand one-hundred percent of what I will write, and that is okay.

First, why do I tend to love support raising at times? There is a complex and yet simple answer to this sort of question. The simple answer to this question is that I love it because of the privilege it is to have dozens of wonderful people on a team who give financially, emotionally, and spiritually to what I do. God has blessed me beyond belief to have people who care about the work of h2o Church on the campus of Kent State and about me. These are people that I would have no way of knowing otherwise, and I am truly glad that I know them. In a lot of ways, what I love about support raising is a tribute to those who already support me and those who will support me. They are what makes this experience joyful; not because they throw money at me, but because the reason they throw money at me is because they believe that somehow God is at work on our campus and thru our church and they want to be apart of that. There is no escaping the overwhelming reality of having a group of people who give themselves to what you are doing in various ways.

I remember having a family and supporter Sunday service this past semester and it was one of the highlights of my semester. Why? On that Sunday some of my supporters came and during the time of worship I was overcome with emotion as I realized what I was experiencing in that moment. I came to see and experience what I had known but never actually felt for an extended period of time and that is that my supporters give financially and of themselves because they love Jesus and they believe that he is at work in renewing the community at Kent State thru our church. Such a simple truth made a lasting imprint on my heart.

Some people propose that support raising is like sales. I do not doubt that there are some components of support raising that mirror that of sales, but in no way do they have the same telos or goal. I see support raising as an invitation into something that is bigger than both of us and opposed to selling a product that is our church. The bottom line is either that people believe in what we are doing or they do not. I hope and pray for those who do decide to be apart of what we are doing often; I pray that they feel directly involved with what we are doing at Kent State because they are a vital part of it, and they deserve all the fruit, as well as the trials, that we experience. These are the reasons I love support raising. I love it because of the people that I am now on this journey with.

Why do I hate support raising? I could have switched these around, but I figured that if the reason that I hate support raising deterred you from doing it yourself, then that is probably a good thing. I have made support raising sound like it is comfy and sentimental with the reasons for which I love it, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is more to it than that. The reason I hate support raising is an inward happening. I hate it because of what it brings out in me (bear in mind that when I say hate that that hate is also a sort of love….confused yet?–I am complex person :)).

I have found that support raising is a lonely process. I have found that no matter how much community I have around me that there is no getting around the fact that it is lonely. You may disagree if you so choose, but I think any support raiser can agree with this to some degree. If anything, the support raising process merely highlights what is already present within our lives and it is loneliness that is often that which is present in our lives whether we actually feel it or not. I tend to agree with my friend Henri Nouwen who says that loneliness is not a come and go type of feeling but rather it is a condition. Nouwen states that loneliness is an apt word to articulate or express what we mean when Christians say that humanity is broken. Simply put: Nouwen says that loneliness is an expression of our brokenness. In my experience, support raising brings out this condition, and that is what I hate (and love) about support raising.

I will leave us with a quote from Nouwen that I have found to be helpful:

When you experience the deep pain of loneliness it is understandable that your thoughts go out to the person who was able to take that loneliness away, even if only for a moment. When, underneath all the praise and acclaim, you feel a huge absence that makes everything look useless, your heart wants only one thing–to be with the person who once was able to dispel those frightful emotions. But it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away.

It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing. God does not want your loneliness; God want to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need. It is important that you dare to stay with your pain and allow it to be there. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there.

When you experience deep loneliness, you are willing to give up everything in exchange for that healing. But no human being can heal that pain. Still, people will be sent to you to mediate God’s healing, and they will be able to offer you the deep sense of belonging that you desire and that gives meaning to all you do. Dare to stay with your pain, and trust in God’s promise to you.

This may sound dramatic for what support raiser might experience, and perhaps it is, but I think by way of Nouwen we have moved passed what one might experience in support raising to a general take on the human experience.

Encouragement on the Eve of Graduation

I have grown to enjoy and appreciate Stanley Hauerwas as of late. He is an Ethics Professor at the Duke Divinity School. This video captures his closing thoughts for the Duke Divinity graduates of 2013. As I watched this video, I couldn’t help but feel like I was sitting right next to one of those Duke graduate students. Alas, while I am not a graduate of the Duke divinity school, I am indeed graduating and finishing my undergraduate career this Friday. Although I am entering into a full-time ministry after graduation, I can still relate with all the confusion and unknowns that every undergraduate graduate will experience. It is a scary thing. There are a lot of pressures and expectations that the society places on our shoulders. I am nervous about all that is to come my way, but these thoughts by Hauerwas are helpful and encouraging to me as I exit this season of my life.

I look forward to reflecting on my four years in college after finals week. I am thinking about a series on how I have grown to love history and why. In any case, I look forward to reflecting on my undergraduate career and sharing some of those thoughts on here!

Our Baptism Service-4/21/13

I was so encouraged by our baptism service on Sunday. We had tons of family members who came and some of the supporters of the staff came as well.

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I was thrilled to have some of my family attend and incredibly blessed to have some of my own supporters come and experience our community! It was an awesome night. Thanks so much to everyone who made this night possible! I look forward to it again next year!

Settling into the School Year

Wow, what a time the past few weeks have been. I could describe the past few weeks in the multitude of ways, but some adjectives I might use to describe it are fruitful, exhausting, challenging, and joyful. It is unique, college ministry that is, because there is no easing into ministry each year, but rather it is a throwing of oneself into the busiest time of ministry right from the beginning. Strange how that works, but it is our reality. So, it has been difficult experiencing that for the first time, but right along with that has been joy.

Our first annual LEAD Retreat was a huge success. We (staff and student leaders of h2o) traveled about 40 minutes away to Punderson State Park and stayed there for just over 24 hours. It was exactly what our leaders needed as far as preparing their hearts for the semester. We prayed together, planned together, challenged each other, and worshipped together. It was a blessed time indeed. I could not have asked for a better way to prepare with my fellow peers and co-workers.

Each year the freshman students attend a Convocation Ceremony. Some of our h2o staff and students were outside ready to begin handing out some h2o discount cards. We gave out over 2,000 cards in under an hour! It was incredible.

A few leaders from h2o and I volunteered at a service opportunity for freshman to partake in their first Saturday at Kent. I attended this my freshman year and so me and some other h2o’ers attended the service opportunity as leaders and got to meet many freshmen. My group went to volunteer at Let’s Grow Akron which helps the Akron area by planting a number of gardens throughout the area. It was a great opportunity to help out, meet and converse with people I hadn’t met before, and even sweat a little bit (OK, a lot a bit).

We had our Welcome service last Sunday and nearly 80 new freshmen came the first weekend they were at Kent! It was a great thing to see after a summer of raising support. God used our efforts the days previous to that in many ways. This year we did something a little different in that we decided to have a picnic on campus after our service so that we would be able to connect with the students who came to our service right away! It was such a joy. Most, if not all of the students from our first service came to that picnic and stayed for a couple of hours. That night, Kent State holds what is known as “blast off”, which is where every student organization sets up shop along the track and freshmen get to a chance to join something or simply get to know people. We were there giving away goldfish and meeting tons of new students!

What a great week! This weekend has been great in reflecting on what God has already done through us, and it only excites me on to what he will do next.