Monday, April 17, 2017

Hello, Goodbye

It was sadness and anticipation that I am announcing that this is my final school year with InterVasity. I have accepted the Director of Family Ministry position at Moscow First Presbyterian Church, beginning June 1st and will be continuing my seminary education with Fuller Theological Seminary. Donan has accepted my current Area Director position and will also begin June 1st.
At a later time, I will post more about my new job and future hopes. I am very excited to work with families and have experienced multiple points of confirmation concerning this calling. For the time being though I would like to look back on the past 13 years (17, including my student involvement). InterVarsity has been my primary community and I am deeply grateful for every student, supporter, and staff partnership I have had. I hope these memories drip with the gratitude I feel to God and to my friends.

A Christian Community. I had no interest in Christian community entering college. Four years of Christian High School left me burned out on faith and skeptical that grouping Christians together was ever a wise proposition. Dan, Monica, Shamieko and Scott became the foundation of a community that challenged my assumptions. I accepted the invitation to a “Co-Ed Naked Bible Study”, along with a cold cup of lemonade on a hot day (I should note there was a footnote on the flier indicating that we would indeed remain clothed). These new friends flipped much of what I assumed about faith. They swore. They laughed. They confessed sins vulnerably. They cried. They prayed for each other. I slowly came to the realization that I was becoming one with them. By Thanksgiving I began to use the dreaded term “Christian” to describe myself.

Bible Boot Camp. After completing my freshmen year, I attended “Frosh Project” in the Tacoma Hilltop neighborhood. Frosh Project was described to me as “Bible Bootcamp”, an unfortunate name for what was essentially my Christian Confirmation course. As a community we worked (I worked for a low-income housing project), we cooked together simple meals (sorry for not soaking the lasagna noodles), we slept on hard church floors together and we cannonballed into the Sermon on the Mount. It was this bible study that messed me up. The somewhat ambiguous high call of Jesus came into stark clarity. To have life, I would need to lose it. I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I became so convinced that I didn’t that I packed all my stuff in the dark of night to leave. As I prayed in my stuffed car I heard Jesus invite me to stay. The next day I shared this story with friends. Annie began to cry. I was sure she was angry with me for thinking about leaving. She choked out: “I am just so happy that Jeremy chose Jesus”.

Me? A Leader? Shockingly, InterVarsity asked me to be a leader. For the next three years I would lead and live in different dorms throughout WSU. I collaborated with Megan, Terri, Becky, Julie, Zac and Jon. For three years I wandered halls knocking on doors, inviting myself to parties and gathering people bible study. I led weeks where no body showed up. I led weeks where 20 people showed up (the “Bible with Balls” was quite the hit in Waller). I clumsily attempted to disciple younger students. I saw friends become Christians! I saw friends leave angrily. I loved people well and authentically. I led people poorly and manipulatively. I tearfully prayed for some people. I avoided others. I was led by Shawna, Steve, Alex and Mae, who each in their own way shaped my leadership. I spent hours with Mike, Chris and Justin in discipleship, attempting to sort out what following Jesus should look like. And how to date girls without being a-holes. Quite a bit of time on that second one.

China. I spent six weeks in central China. Yes it was on this project that I met a beautiful, thoughtful, feisty Whitman woman that I quickly decided I wanted to spend as much time as possible with. But since we had a “no falling in love in China” rule, I will gloss over meeting my wife. What I won’t gloss over was how transformative it was to see my Chinese roommate begin to weep while singing “At the Cross”, or that amazement I felt when he wanted to pray to Jesus. In America, it is almost impossible be with someone when they first grasp the idea of God dying so that they can live. I also remember praying deep (and I mean DEEP) into the night with Eli. I should also mention Jen and Shamieko. These two women of giant faith were my friends throughout all of college. We traveled the world together and prayed together. I fought with both them and was sharpened by their wisdom. Jen challenged me to be more of the person God called me to be. Both her and Mike (they would later marry) never allowed me to get by on charm. They demanded substance of me. It was (is) an amazing gift. Shamieko chose to be an honest black woman in predominately white chapter that was attempting to open its eyes to injustice and race. Shamieko rarely lost patience with me and challenged me to see WSU not as a white dude, but to experience the campus from the margins (and such see my faith from the same perspective). Shamieko gifted me with honesty and modeled perseverance. These two women were “there” for every major college story I have.

Idahome. In 2003, Donan and I accepted an invitation to intern with InterVarsity at the University of Idaho. It would be impossible in overview form to write enough about Amy and Eli Awtrey, so I will keep it short: Donan and I based our marriage and ministry work on what we saw and learned from them. They demonstrated faith lived well. Sometimes we loved them for it. Occasionally we hated them for it. But we were always watching and learning. The student leaders when we arrived at Idaho were John, Adam and Audrey. They are my friends to this day. The believed in something that didn’t yet exist. I am always inspired by students who can do that. Now time to bullet point my favorite Idaho memories:
  •          Worship at Fall Conference 2003. I started that conference more interested in catching up with my WSU friends. By Saturday night I was weeping watching my UI students singing to Jesus.
  •           Eli teaching me to throw a better forehand (frisbee throw)
  •           Feasts at Merv (the trailer)
  •           Playing Tiger Woods golf with Amy and Eli
  •           Shalom Conferences. Idaho students engaging in multiethnic worship and sitting under the feet of teaching they could have never expected
  •           Urbana 03
  •           Working graveyard to pay the bills
  •           Singing the Idaho and WSU fight songs at my wedding reception
  •           Sarah coming to intern
  •           Breaking my leg playing frisbee
  •           John coming on staff
  •           Jesustherevolution and a month straight of 24/7 prayer in my basement
  •           Tutoring in the CAMP program with Erik

Return to WSU. In 2009 I was really, really going to leave. But “they” (Scott and Kim) pulled me back by inviting me to staff with WSU chapter. Within my first week I met Andrew and Taylor (who would be the foundation of the next generation of leaders), walking around campus wearing nothing by short shorts and a pizza box, talked with 60 freshmen about sex and the bible and began to see the beginning of a chapter. I am so thankful for being able to partner with John (again), Donan, Erin, Tyler, Annie, Amy and Jessica. Pullman Presbyterian Church and specifically Matt and Amy McNelly have been foundational friends and partners. Simply put…an incredible chapter of my life.
  •           Forcing Andrew to walk around campus with me in a pizza box
  •           Inviting to Summit by smashing a piggie bank
  •           Preaching on Woman at the Well by smashing a jar
  •           Our community becoming “4th circle” Christians
  •           First Summit with WSU
  •           Coffee/Settlers every week with Abigail and Kelati
  •           Spending the night on Andrew’s dorm floor
  •           Every time Alex came to Andrew’s bible study
  •           A year of study and discipleship with Jesse and Brandon
  •           LaFe!
  •           Inn Dinner!
  •           5 weeks of Summit leading with Donan (and infant Moira)
  •           Amanda’s Summit mohawk
  •           Taylor, Amanda, and Rebecca’s apartment. For two years, these women of God used their hospitality to make God’s love known to dozens of students. Amazing faith and sacrifice.
  •             Rachael, who literally did everything to serve students at IV. One story would not be enough.
  •           Everything about Summit with Tyler, Brandi and John. All stories have been sealed to protect the innocent.

The Best Co-Workers I will Ever Have. This is getting long. Really long. 13 (or 17 years) is pretty long. I am going to mention some people I have worked with. This is not exhaustive.
  •           Shawna: you taught me to pray and how to love. You saw me in mighty armor…and saw that I was actually using it to hide, not to battle. You invited me out into the world instead. Thank you.
  •           John: you’ve been my student, my intern, my landlord, and my colleague. Mostly though, my friend. You are my go-to for crazy hypotheticals for over a decade. You are probably the kindest of all of us.
  •           Sarah: wisdom. You are wise.
  •           Erin: You’ve been “shooting your shot” long before it was a thing.
  •           Dale: You gave a year to help me get well. Thank you.
  •           Nick: I have missed your enthusiastic passion
  •           Tyler: I have missed your tireless desire to learn
  •           Annie: I wish that I could be a student in a small group you lead
  •           Amy L: I boldly predict that in your lifetime you are going to open a restaurant and plant a church. I would gladly go to both.
  •           Jessica: Been a fan since Summit.
  •           Vince: You are my soccer Yoda and my big, bleeding heart conscious.
  •           SL: I want to keep praying with you.
  •           Daniel: You have taught me to begin to see the world as artist
  •           May: You decided to trust me. That is one of the great honors of my life.
  •           Adri: You are one of the most trustworthy people I know
  •           Angela: You showed me that it is possible to melt cynicism with love, not just smash it with logic.
  •           Marshae: Leading intercession with you was a privilege.
  •           Adam B: If the measure a person is saying “yes” to God no matter the cost, then you are one of the most complete people I know
  •           Tim: I glad California gave you to us.
  •           Scott: I am sorry for the late PCard Report. Your humility and willingness to keep learning helps remind me that there is always hope for the church.
  •           Brandi and Benita: Leading Summit with you was one of the great privileges of my staff career. I hope you know that you “led up” and taught me so much.
  •           Alex: Not sure if you remember leading evangelism training at Fall Conference together, but to this day it is most in sync I have ever felt with another staff. Thanks for the Sports Illustrated’s.
  •           Christian: I respect your courage and the fight you gave to see your vision come to reality.
  •           Joel: You’re in a lot of staff pictures with me. I am glad we have been on the same track. I am also glad that you always take my call, even though you have no idea what level of emotion is coming from the other end.
  •       Debbie: Thanks for letting me teach your students and believing that I had something to bring. You're a great friend.
  •           Ellen: I don’t know anyone who couldn’t benefit from you as a life coach.
  •           Kim and Pauline: Thanks for believing in me.

An Interdependent Life. Finally, I would like to thank my supporters, both in prayer and finances. As I give you into Donan’s care, I am grateful for 13 years of dependency on God’s provision through you. Despite all the names listed above, staff can be very lonely. You have supported and encouraged me. You risked on God’s work in the Inland NW. You have sacrificed. I know that most of you give not out of abundance, but out of sacrifice. I have felt an obligation to live a life worthy of God’s call and your sacrifice for 13 years. Thank you. 


Christopher Lund said...

I feel like Moscow First Presbyterian is . . . lucky? Fortunate? Blessed? Something along that spectrum of good things that happen.

Thanks for sharing a beautiful display of thankfulness.

Joel Martin said...

Chris said it pretty well. I'll still pick up the phone. Maybe you'll break less bones now that you're not on staff?

Jeremiah said...

Gents: you are too kind. I mean it. It makes me nervous.

Seriously though, I am worried that I won't have the kind of friendships in the church that are baked into InterVarsity. Working shoulder to shoulder with you both always encouraged growth. I pray that God would provide men to be challenged by in this next stage.