May 11, 2012

The First Year

We just ended our very first year as the director (technically directors, but I'm more of a director of Wilson) of Cru at Southern Miss. It's one of those moments which I know is much more monumental than I'm treating it. Two years ago I was clinging onto Auburn with white knuckles as the region asked us to consider moving, and now I feel my heart clinging to this town, to our church, to our budding friendships, to our incredible team, and to this university and the students we love.

Whenever people ask us how the year has gone, our answer is always something like, "Better than we expected." That's no catchphrase. It's very, very true. We were prepared for this to be a very hard year. I'd like to think we were being realistic, but maybe we were expecting too little from a great God.

Here's just some of the highlights from the ministry...

Our team. We've grown from two other interns (Marshall and Claire), to another married couple (Mitch and Amy), and next year we will be adding a third intern (Andrew) to our team. They are all like family and we love them.
Community. Our students not only enjoy us, but they enjoy each other and have formed life-giving friendships within the ministry. Our hope was for them to understand what a gospel-centered community looks like (a place of grace, of growth, of being outward-focused) and that has happened.

Sent ones. Our students have seen the importance of sharing the gospel of Life with their friends. Instead of answering a "I'm so depressed" with a shallow "It will get better. Things happen for a reason," they are actually entering into their friends' pain with the incredible news that this life has purpose... that there is hope in the Name of their Creator. We are sending three (THREE!!) students to South Africa for a year in January. I can hardly believe how God has answered our prayers.

Changed lives. We've seen the gospel take root in five students' hearts this year. Five lives changed forever... their eternities, their future families... Incredible.

One of those students is Brooke. If you have the time to keep reading... I'd love to tell you her story.
Brooke is a sweet, bubbly sophomore from New Orleans. She came to our Girls' Night Out in February and marked on a card that she'd like to talk to someone about Jesus. I met her in a coffee shop late one night and she cut to the chase pretty quick, "I know some things about religion, but I'd really like to know more about Jesus." I shared the gospel with her... we flipped around in our Bibles and talked about God's great story of redemption. We talked about the beginning when man had a perfect relationship with their Creator, about how choosing to be god of our own lives changed the story drastically and how our Great Lover came to rescue us and is redeeming us and the world back to how it was created to be.

She was wide-eyed, "This is incredible. No one has ever explained this to me." Her well-meaning roommate had been showing her movies like "The Prince of Egypt" and "The Ten Commandments," which obviously did nothing but make her feel a greater gap in her knowledge of the Bible.

We talked about faith... about how it's a decision of the will. She ended the night saying she needed to think and then thanked me... "No one has ever sought me out to talk to me about these things."

We met several more times and talked about everything under the moon from God's faithfulness to Jacob and Esau. She had so many questions. She never had anyone to listen to them before. I gave her The Jesus Storybook Bible to read because her biggest concern was that she didn't know anything about the Bible. Sally Lloyd-Jones does an incredible job at highlighting how all the stories in the Bible are really about the need for, the pining for and the coming of our rescuer, Jesus. I wanted her to see religion is not about characters in an old book. It's about the God-man coming to restore her.

Every time we met she would end by saying, "I'm not there yet, but I'm hopeful. I think I just need a sign." I tried to explain to her (probably poorly) that Jesus Himself is her sign. The Word... straight out of the mouth of her Creator... that is our sign. It's such a miracle; All of it.

Yesterday morning we met at Starbucks. She had sent me a text message a few days ago saying, "I'm ready." I couldn't wait to hear what that meant. She said, "All of this time I've been waiting for a sign and I finally realized that Jesus, drawing me to Himself since February... that is my sign." My heart about burst. I felt like I had a backstage pass to God's work in someone's life.

What I love about this is that her story isn't over. I can't wait to see what her life looks like next year as she understands more about the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, freedom and submission of following Jesus.


Joshua said...

Praise God! So great to hear everything God has been doing through you guys. You are always in our prayers.

Anne Marie said...

Yes, praise God! We will be praying for Brooke and that the Lord continues to use your family and the rest of your team to grow the Kingdom at southern miss.

Sara said...

That made me cry because I love seeing God work. He really is in the business of changing lives, isn't he. SO ENCOURAGING about ya'll year at SM!

Hank and Anna Uzzell said...

that's awesome, Elizabeth! Praise the Lord!