There are so many things making my stress level way too high right now! I am going to be done with school for the rest of my life in one month’s time. I really have no clue what will happen after that. I need to finish my senior project and that still is pretty vague in my mind as well. I also get really anxious thinking about what my life will be like when school is over. I am really excited to be done. I am hoping I will get more free time to practice my music, design and make clothing, prepare wholesome food for myself instead of turning to fast options. But wow, I feel so old. I am a little afraid that I will sink into a hermit lifestyle. It’s ok, I have a dog. I don’t have much more to say at this point except how I am very grateful, and also pretty heavily reliant, on the inner peace that I receive from worshiping at Grace on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings with LCM. God’s peace is a saving Grace.
For those of you who do not know, I am studying abroad in Haifa, Israel for this semester! While it is super exciting and such a new life experience, I was missing part of home; my church life. So, last Sunday, my friend and I decided to finally check out a local Episcopal church in Haifa, which was about 40 minutes away by bus from the University. It took us a few wrong turns, and checking in random places, but we finally found the church when we noticed a priest walking into the chapel. At first, when we arrived, we were the only two people in the sanctuary so we were a little worried this was not the correct location, but the priest and the organist greeted us warmly right away, making us feel comforted. After we took our seats, the priest came over with the English translations of the readings for that day and also the Order of the Liturgy, because the service would mainly be in Arabic, and he explained the service very thoroughly so we knew what to expect.
As more people started shuffling in, just about everyone in the congregation (25 or so) came up and greeted us, asking us questions about where we were from and what we were doing in Haifa. You could tell they all loved having visitors and were genuinely interested in our stories.
As the service started with the opening hymn, I just stood and listened to the beauty of the music and admired this quaint church. The service was interesting in and of itself because it was a harmonious blend of Arabic and English; half of the prayers were in Arabic, the other in English, we said the congregational responses collectively in both languages, and then all of the hymns were in Arabic. The organist even translated the sermon for us as it was given, so that we too could hear the priest’s wonderful message of loving thy neighbor, and putting our faith in God even through our hardest trials.
Near the end of the service, the priest actually had us introduce ourselves to everyone, and adamantly invited us to have coffee and treats with them afterwards. During the coffee hour where we filled up on delicious coffee, harissa (an Arab pastry), and cookies, the priest once again welcomed and thanked us for joining them that morning, and what he said to us next was truly heartwarming: he said that we were always welcome, that we could consider St. John’s our church home while in Haifa and they would help us with anything we needed in getting acclimated to the city. We had only spent an hour and a half with these strangers practically, yet they had opened their doors and arms to us, and made us feel as comfortable and at home as possible.
Last Sunday was such an excellent example of how to show genuine hospitality towards others, and it got me to truly think about what I think hospitality should look and feel like, and how I will show others this same kindness. I urge you all to also reflect on this, and whether you see a new or old face at church, to treat everyone with kindness and to make everyone feel welcome in our community.
Even though I couldn’t understand the service fully due to the language barrier, I knew that this church was living out God’s commandment to love thy neighbor to the fullest. It was one of the loveliest things to see, that around the world and in all types of communities and languages, God’s love continues to be shared and extends to the edges of the Earth.
It seems like just last week I was settling into the back row of my lecture hall ready to breeze through syllabus week, but joke’s on me because here we are at week EIGHT of the semester; holy cow did time fly! Between classes, work, study groups, PAUSE!, and late nights at the library, the semester has hit almost the halfway point and I feel as if I haven’t yet had a chance to take a breath. Everyone says that each year you’re at college, the time goes faster and faster, and I couldn’t agree more. Contributing to the chaos of this semester are the impending and exciting thoughts in the back of my mind about studying abroad this spring. In January I will be heading to Sydney, AUSTRALIA for the entire semester! I am beyond thrilled but also a bit nervous, and a lot sad to be leaving everyone on campus. Things for me this year have really clicked, and it’s hard to envision myself away from the wonderful community I am a part of at the U.
As I sat down at Pause last week, my head swimming with these thoughts and of things I needed to do; start to study for my midterm TOMORROW, finish my chemistry problem set, go to office hours, and most importantly call my mom, I found it a bit difficult to concentrate on nothing, as I like to do at Pause. I find it a great time to sit back, clear my head, listen to the music and the sermon, and just BE.
But this last week I had trouble even clearing my head for a minute. As I sat there stressing, thinking about everything I needed to get done and everything people were counting on me to do, I found myself feeling a bit hopeless and just plain exhausted.
My evening took a turn however when we gathered to sing the Prayer of Good Courage to Dana, a student leader leaving to study in Israel for the semester (how cool!). As we sang to Dana I was struck by the words of the prayer in a way I hadn’t been before. I found myself relating to the prayer quite well; feeling like everyone was singing to me, (even though I was obviously not the star of this show!)
I saved the sermon with the prayer on it, brought it home, and tacked it on my bulletin board, in the most visible place from my desk. I invite you to read it too:
O God, you have called us
To ventures where we cannot see the end
By paths never yet taken
Through perils unknown
Give us good courage
Not knowing where we go
To know that your hand is leading us
Wherever we might go
Looking at this prayer daily, even if only for a quick glance, has renewed my energy and faith in myself and in my semester. It has made me realize that it’s not always the big things that we could pray for courage for. We could ask God for courage to face an impending exam, a troubled relationship, or a venture across the world, and He will listen- no matter what! In a time of stress and exhaustion, this prayer spoke to me and encourages me daily to put my faith in God, His timing, and his will to lead me and guide me to wherever it is I am supposed to be.
I hope it speaks to you! -Lauren Zima
I’m away from the LCM community this semester, taking my adventures abroad to Hong Kong! I’m really enjoying my time here and I’m learning a lot about myself and what it’s like to be a Christian here. One of my highest priorities coming here was to find a Christian community that will help me grow in my relationship with God. Surprisingly, finding a Christian community is not the hard part- finding one in English is! There are at least 4 Christian groups at the university I am studying at, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). One Catholic, one for Mainland students in Mandarin, one for locals in Cantonese, and Campus Crusade for Christ (known as CCC here, Cru in the U.S.) which is mostly in Cantonese but has a 3-yr-old English sub-division called Agape. So I joined Agape! Agape has about half local students, half international students, many of whom are exchange students from the U.S.
The most striking thing about Christians here is their commitment to their faith. They are very willing to share their faith with others, which is much needed at HKUST. Students at HKUST often get caught up pursuing grades and GPA and success at whatever cost. Many base their lives around their ability to perform on tests. This manifests itself in a high suicide rate which just breaks my heart. Students here are so smart and have so many wonderful opportunites, but aren’t given the support that they need due to the culture that places so much weight on certain ideas of success. I aim to learn from my friends in Agape how to spread God’s love at HKUST and to inspire others to work for a higher purpose.
I also joined a fellowship group (not related to HKUST) for undergraduates and recently-graduated young adults. Last night, the topic of our discussion was the Occupy Central and Student Protests that have been taking place over the last 2 weeks. The movement started with student boycott of classes at the major universities in HK to protest a recent ruling by the CCP regarding the election process of HK’s chief executive. My university participated in the boycott, but had lower participation rates than other universities. Last Friday, protests escalated when police used pepper spray to try to dissolve a protest. In response, the Occupy Central pro-democracy group and many other citizens joined the students. The protests continued for a few more days, but have since lessened with the promise of talks between HK’s current chief executive, CY Leung, and the student groups. Until last night, when it re-escalated as pro-Beijing citizens, fed up with the pro-democracy protests, violently attacked protesters still assembled at one of the sites. Now, I’m avoiding those areas and waiting for what is next.
Our discussion was about whether it is right, as Christians, to participate in the protests and Occupy Central movement. It was an interesting discussion, as the fellowship members were a diverse group all with varying backgrounds: local students, international students, exchange students and expats here for work. Some supported the pro-democracy protests, some didn’t, and some (like me) felt they didn’t have a say in the matter. But what we concluded was that we must proceed by what we feel is right. As Christians, we are supposed to obey the laws, except in cases of injustice (Isaiah 1:17). If HKers feel the law is unjust, and many do, then it is okay to participate in peaceful protest. One thing we all absolutely agreed on was that the protest must remain peaceful. We concluded by praying for all parties involved and that a peaceful solution can be found.
Finally, I just wanted to let you all know that I am safe and far away from the affected areas. Hong Kong is usually a very safe and peaceful place and it makes me sad to see violence here. I feel like this is my second (third? fourth? I’ve lost track) home!
I will be blogging 2x a month for Lutheran Campus Ministries!I will start out by sharing a little bit about myself. This is my first year as a student leader at Grace, and I am really enjoying it! I have gotten more involved with the sharing of music this year by singing and also playing the washboard when we do bluegrass! I have become more comfortable with the other student leaders, and I have been enjoying welcoming new people into the church. I’m from Minnesota and I was raised Lutheran. I started out at Prince of Peace, then we switched to Shepherd of the Valley, and now I go to Grace! After this semester, I will likely move to California and have to search again for a church I enjoy. I have always been very strong in my faith. Here’s a story from my childhood that my mom told me: When I was three, I once spent a whole day in my bedroom. My mom came in and I was sitting on my bed, talking. She asked who I was talking to, and I said “Jesus!” She was astounded and a bit scared, because she wasn’t quite sure how we had met. I honestly feel a very personal connection with Jesus. His voice is very present and I maintain a pretty constant stream of conversation with my Lord. I am not free of sin by any means, and I often get sidetracked or wrapped up in my own story instead of reaching solely to be a part of His story, which is my idealistic goal as a Christian. I have been through many tough times. These are moments in which my fellow Christians have admitted they have questioned God, His love for us, and His intentions. For me, I would not have made it through some times with that mentality. Instead I viewed the challenges that God has presented me as gifts. God knows my strength and ability to be resilient through adversity, and I take that as the highest of compliments. I have learned so much by trusting in God and persevering in tough times. I try to stay positive in spirits, buy I am a hard-edged Realist when it gets down to it. My most recent test from God happened less than a week ago. My little sister’s ex-boyfriend who I had met on several occasions committed suicide. He had broken up with her quite harshly and said many very cruel things to my dear sister. She trudged through the break-up process, and even got asked to homecoming by a new beau. After she went to Homecoming, Adam asked to see her. They hung out a couple days in a row, because he confided in her that he really missed her, he was terribly lonely, and had only dumped her because his Dad didn’t like the two of them together. My sister Megan forgave him but did not want to further a romantic relationship with him, although they were still close friends. The day after that conversation he took his life using his father’s gun. I am not a very emotional person. I am mostly comprised of logical speculation. This situation makes me sad and angry. I feel sad that Adam did not have the faith or strength to know that he could get through that time. He would have entered a new chapter in his life shortly after graduating high school. He had a stable family situation and financial contributions from his parents. A lot he didn’t have to worry about, but I don’t think he realized that or he would have been more grateful of his situation. This is the point at which I get angry. It’s unfair to those that had given him so much and now they have to suffer. I also feel impassioned to push for stricter gun education and regulations when it comes to distribution, licensing, and safe storage. Unfortunately, this is America, guns are sold at Wal-Mart, and the right to bear arms is in the Constitution. With my decently solid knowledge of history, I would estimate it’s going to be a minimum of 100 years before that changes. The thing is, I don’t get mad at God for these frustrating and saddening items and occurrences. I know He’s not happy about them either. I don’t view God as a puppeteer, but more as a partner and all-knowing overseer. That’s how knowing God helps me through tough times.
Welcome back to all of our current students and a special welcome to our incoming freshmen! It’s hard to believe that the start of another great school year is just around the corner. I hope you’ve had an enjoyable and restful summer and are ready to start off the 2014-2015 school year!
Freshmen, you are just days away from the start of the next chapter of your life. Some of you may be traveling from miles and miles away, while others of you will only be a few minutes from home. Before you know it you will be moving into your dorms, meeting your roommate and the others on your floor, getting acquainted with campus, and starting your first college classes. Whether this anticipation brings you a sense of excitement, nervousness, or a bit of both, we are excited to welcome you all to campus, and hope that you all find Lutheran Campus Ministry to be the welcoming community that we all have experienced.
As a freshman last year, I found my first few weeks on campus to be more of a change than I had expected. I was living away from home for the first time, meeting more people than I could keep track of, trying to figure out what all I was going to be involved in, and figuring out how to keep all of my class syllabi straight. After a busy welcome week and first couple days of classes, I was so relieved to attend the Wednesday night Pause service at Grace Lutheran Church. I immediately found myself surrounded by several very friendly and welcoming college students and it already felt as if I were right at home.
Lutheran Campus Ministry is a community of hospitality. We are excited to welcome in new faces, get to know people individually, be curious, ask questions, discuss openly, and grow both individually and as a community. We worship together at Pause almost every Wednesday night at 9 pm at Grace Lutheran Church, beginning the first week of school. I would love to see you all there!
Good luck with the start of your freshman year and know that you’re always welcome at Lutheran Campus Ministry. I look forward to meeting you all this coming year!
If you would like more information on how to get involved with Lutheran Campus Ministry – Twin Cities please contact email@example.com
When my roommate and I stumbled across LCM at the end of our freshman year I didn’t realize how important this group would become to me. Since then I’ve become more and more invested in LCM and watched it grow from a community of fifteen to fifty. When I spent a semester abroad in Rome, every Wednesday night I would get a little down because I knew I was missing Pause. I missed the community and the friends I had found here. All of us who come to Lutheran Campus Ministries are in one way or another looking for an open and supporting faith community. What we’ve found and what makes LCM so special is that along with a faith community, it’s also a place where you can be unapologetically yourself. We hug each other in greeting, crack each other up at the most inopportune times, and clean up the dishes together while singing show tunes and Disney. We’re a bit of a motley bunch and that’s a part of what makes LCM, LCM. We come from a variety of backgrounds with different experiences and view points yet we find a way to come together, laughing and praying and loving and living. Though a handful of us are graduating and going off to explore our own paths, we will carry these memories, lessons, and friendships with us. Like LCMer’s before us we’ll never be too far from the home that LCM has given us.
I.am.indignant! It has been my word of the semester. This semester I have been taking a break from design school to participate in a program through the Higher Education Consortium of Affairs (HECUA) focusing on inequality in America. The curriculum focuses on a variety of topics from wage discrepancies, housing, race and class issues, and politics. During the course of the semester I have learned so much, but I have also become so very, very angry.
Take housing for example. Most of our housing issues today stem from legislation and practices from the 1950s. After WWII there was a housing crisis that prompted suburban sprawl. During this time banks and realtors would “red line” certain areas, marking where they would give loans based on race or class. Realtors would “steer” certain families into certain neighborhoods, increasing segregation. Exclusionary zoning limited who could live where based upon their ethnicity, creating pockets of race around the city. Over time these pockets have been allotted different resources creating inequality between them. Some areas were destroyed during the era of urban renewal, removing affordable housing all together.
Now you may think that these practices have been outlawed by now, and most of them have, yet they still affect us. We still making zoning laws that limit residents based on their income. Richer sectors require 3 car garages and certain lot sizes ensuring that only those who can afford such luxuries live in their community. Communities given different resources in the past still don’t have equal access. Many of our communities are still segregated. So here I am, indignant. How are such unfair practices from 60 years ago STILL impacting us? How are we still unwilling to live near the people we work with or shop with or worship with? Why can’t we strive for a more equitable distribution of resources? I hope that this makes you a little uncomfortable too; uncomfortable or angry enough to educate yourself, or your family, or friends, or faith community. After all, we are called to care and love those around us, to change the systems that foster despair, hate, and poverty. I hope that you too are indignant enough to want to make a change, to live in an equitable community with those around us.