Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Christmas in August!

If you don't like Christmas, then we probably can't be friends.

I mean really, how can you not like Christmas?! It's joyful and full of excitement. Christmas songs loop on repeat and become the soundtrack playing in our heads for two months. Houses are strewn with beautiful lights that add a sense of awe as they illuminate the streets at night.  One of my favorite parts of Christmas is that it is a season of giving and getting to practice being a cheerful giver. I can give someone something I know that they've been wanting, and the look on their face as they open the gift oftentimes is an even greater gift to me. 

The month of August for me felt like Christmas because of the new beginnings that it brought. The school year ending so abruptly in March was pretty discouraging for me, as there were a lot of things that just felt different virtually. A lot of the girls that I had been building a relationship with over the school year had to pick up and move home, which left them feeling unresolved and isolated. I myself finished the apprenticeship with FOCUS using the same schedule I had before, just all online. That's a HUGE adjustment! So all of that to say, I think COVID has left every person affected in some way, most of which are not positive. Then, we get to August. And it feels like Christmas. 

It's joyful and full of excitement. People are able to move back to the Dallas area and continue to pursue community. Even though socializing and interacting look different, I have the option to see people in person again. Reuniting with people that I've seen through a screen for months makes my time with them now that much sweeter. The song of defeat, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation is replaced with a song that is lighter, and full of hope. It becomes the soundtrack playing in people's heads and is a beautiful song to have on repeat for the months to come. New students arrive on campus and feel isolated and fearful of what this season will bring, but our ministry can practice being cheerful givers and extend them an invitation into community and friendship. We can give them something they've been craving for months, and seeing their faces brighten after being invited to get coffee or go to the park to spend time together is an even greater gift to me. We can shine a light on what has been a dark time for these students, and stand in awe as we see person after person alight with hope that they can go and extend to other people. So this month has felt like Christmas, and I am not complaining :)

Here is what we've been up to! 

Weeks of Welcome

We started off the school year with the UTD Weeks of Welcome. The first week, our staff and student leaders were outside on campus every night with board games, spikeball, cornhole, chalk, and more to welcome the new freshmen to campus. And yes, we were all wearing masks! As the week progressed, more and more students were showing up, eager to meet new people and make friends. There were so many freshmen who had not had any social interaction since moving in days before, so it was neat to be some of the first people who talked to them! By the second week, University policy changed to not allow organizations to hold in-person events. We facilitated a lot of online events (games, seminars, etc.) and continued to meet new people. So those couple of weeks were super exciting! 

Students at one of our events the first week playing with chalk on campus! (You can't really see, but all are wearing masks)

Me and Rhett, who is one of the campus pastors at UTD and also a total goofball.

Lindsey, Andrea, Sarah, and Rhett (fellow campus pastors for UTD FOCUS) doing what looks like the dab, but is actually the campus sign for "Whoosh" at one of our events the first week!

My sweet friend Zoe and I at one of our events the first week, masks and all! 

Leader Meeting/Peer Team!

Our ministry has 57 student leaders who committed to invest in the people on our campus this year! One of the ways they do that is by leading small groups. We call our gender-specific small groups "Cores" and our leaders "Corefas" (which stands for core facilitators). Every core has two corefas, who meet with one of our staff members weekly for mentorship. Every Monday night, that staff person has their Corefa pairs come together for leader development, which is called "Peer Team." Lots of definitions, I know! Typically we will also have Leader Meetings where all of our male and female leaders come together for that development, but because of COVID, we decided to spend more time in peer teams this year. If we do come all together it's over Zoom, which you can imagine is overwhelming with over 60 people! 

This year I get to lead a peer team of 8 girls (4 corefa pairs), which I am SO excited about! They are all so sweet and ready to do ministry on campus. I am already so proud of them and am looking forward to introducing them to you all in future blogs :)

That's it for this month. As always, I appreciate your love and support, and willingness to hear about what is going on in my ministry. It is because of your prayers and financial support that I am able to do this. So THANK YOU!