December Update

Hello friends and Merry Christmas!

First, I want to apologize that this update is a bit late. We had a staff retreat right after getting back from the holidays, both of which I will tell you all about in the next update, but that pushed off writing another blog.

Second, I want to encourage you all that this month was truly incredible! What you guys are doing and giving is making a real difference in the lives of people at Richland.

The biggest event that happened this month was the Christmas party. For a lot of groups and clubs, a Christmas party is little more than a gathering of people who are already friends, not interested in the deeper things in life, and out to get drunk, party, and do anything but be intentional and use it as a growing experience.



This year our Christmas party was so much more than this. This was the first year the ministry at Richland was big enough to have our own Christmas party separate from UTD, which we have been connected to for a long time. We had a Christmas morning themed party where people came in pajamas and brought blankets to sit on the floor. We made pancakes, each core (our Bible study groups) did a skit together.



I have been to a lot of these parties with different schools, but this one was my favorite. We didn't have better decorations, fantastic advertising, entertainment that would keep a crowd, but we had students who had bought into the vision of reaching out to their community and spending meaningful time with them. Students brought friends and invited people and no one was on the side looking lonely. One student brought her little brother, who was probably six to eight years old and he was welcomed with open arms by all the students. He felt comfortable going up to join skits and dance, which brought forth uproarious cheers and people standing up to encourage him. He was lifted up on their shoulders and made the king of the event. He got to see real love that night.



Later, after being super helpful and making sure the staff had all the help they needed getting the facility clean, many of the students went into another room to have their own event that transpired without guidance or assignment. They had organized a secret Santa with each other and gone out and gotten thoughtful gifts for each other. A lot of these students don't make a lot of money, or work to help support their families, but they went out of their way to make sure everyone who wanted to participate got something that would mean something to them. They stood and told the story of why they gave them that gift and handed it to them. This display brought tears to my eyes because at the beginning of the semester, these were just strangers walking the halls of their college, never having seen each other, many of them never having experienced real love and friendship. Then I walk in to see someone giving someone else a knife from their own pocket. Someone else was crying because they saw family here. The whole group cheered on a student who had just gotten a new jacket, provoking him to throw a mini fashion show. It became more than just a college group or club, this was family.



I then thought back to a leader meeting where we went over who was intentionally meeting with who and realized not only has this grown from a club to a family where strangers truly love each other and will have friends for life, but most of them are being met with and discipled one on one, growing deeper in their faith and learning why it is significant to love. Learning what it means and falling in love not with a club, but with the living God.



We left for Christmas break at the end of the month and I was touched to see how many students reached out to me to say Merry Christmas and ask how life was going. My girlfriend Alex came up to spend time with my family in Alaska and we had so much fun getting to experience adventures there. We got to drive down from Anchorage and admire the mountains and the ocean and later got to experience Christmas together. I may write more about this in the blog next month as it bled into preparing for the coming semester, but it was truly amazing and it meant a lot to me to get to go visit my family and to be working in a place where that can happen.





I am so excited to see what God has in store for this new semester. We have very exciting things coming up this month and it is hard to believe the school year is already half over. You guys are the best team I could ask for and it means so much to me that you are supporting me and making this possible. I truly wish you could see the eyes of these students and get to experience their lives growing exponentially in their understanding of God and what it looks like to truly follow Him and love like Him. This work means so much to so many people, and it is hard to express in words how important it is.

I love you guys so much!

Have a fantastic beginning to this new year! I am so thankful to have each of you in my life!

Comments

  1. Hey Jesse! I love that your students organized their own Secret Santa. That is seriously such a sweet story. It sounds like you have a great crew over there and God is doing something awesome with them! Thanks for sharing!

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