Meeting the Needs

2 Corinthians 8:2:  In spite of their terrible ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and deep poverty have led them to be abundantly generous.
 
     There are needs in our community. Some are spoken, some are held in silence, some are held in shame.  We know there are students and families that struggle, finding it hard to make ends meet. The Seminary understands that hardships can happen, even to the wisest of stewards. An accident, an illness, a death in the family, the unexpected and the unusual all can lead down a path of frustration and financial hardship.
     That is the heart behind the Phillipian Fund. It is supported by gifts from persons within the community who wish to provide financial aid to students experiencing unexpected or unusual hardship or loss. Requests may be made personally or on behalf of others to any Community Formation staff, who will channel the requests appropriately. (Funds are not dispersed to pay normal household expenses.)
     Out of this Phillipian Fund, our Phillipian Food Pantry was created. There are many families, many students, that can financially make ends meet, but are “food insecure.”  They and their families struggle with hunger, with meeting the day-to-day food needs.  Food insecurity is defined as a “ state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”  There are a number of families here that utilize SNAP, which is the government’s food assistance (also known as food stamps).  But even with SNAP, their food money doesn’t always stretch through the month.  International students and their families usually cannot qualify for SNAP, and can sometimes suffer from hunger more often than others.  There are single parents in our community, right here within the seminary walls, that fret and worry over feeding their children and making ends meet.
     Are you aware of the needs? Did you know your next door neighbor may not be able to feed their family once a day, much less three times daily as most of us expect to eat?  Are you one of the 49.1 million in the United States that suffers from food insecurity?
     We understand there is sometimes shame and embarrassment in admitting our needs. We know that there are those in our community who are suffering, often in silence and embarrassment, as their stomachs rumble and the worry wears on them.  But we also know that we need to minister to one another, in the ways that we are able.
     So, a food pantry was created. It has been in existence for a year or so now, advertised by word of mouth.  We have had a few food drives to help stock it, including one this past fall as we gathered food during our Fun Run/Walk.  We also  moved the Pantry into the Community House, to make it more accessible. We want to be able to help one another meet the most basic of needs.   This is also one of the reasons that the Community Garden is open to all to harvest from the community beds, without cost, to help feed those in need.
     Community Formation, and Formation Ministries in particular, is desiring to connect those with needs to the resources that are available, including our Food Pantry.  If you are in need, or you know of someone within our community that could use assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We hold this information in confidence, and in prayer.  We want those in our community to know that we honor their privacy.
     If you would like to donate food to the Pantry, or money to the Phillipian Fund, please contact our office. We can take any type of non-perishable food items, as well as paper goods like toilet paper, paper towels, etc.  Healthy and gluten-free options, as well as canned proteins like tuna or chicken,  would also be wonderful to receive, as many prepackaged foods don’t work well for those with allergies.
     We are so grateful for the generosity that this community has in caring for one another, and it is our deepest prayer that we will continue to love one another in such a way.  Thank you for loving your neighbor.

Living into your calling

Calling.

The dictionary defines calling as:

1.  the act of a person or thing that calls.

2.  vocation, profession, or trade

3.  a call or summons
4.  a strong impulse or inclination.
      The word is used, a lot, in this place. A calling is the reason most, if not all, people are enrolled in seminary. They feel this impulse to follow the desire that God has placed on their hearts and in their minds. They put themselves through class after class, exploring the depth of what their vocation may entail, discussing and arguing with theologians, pouring themselves into reading, and studying, more reading, and writing paper after paper, followed only by more reading.
      But what about those of us who are not the students? Those of us who came here, to this place, supporting our spouse, encouraging them in following their call…where is our calling in all of that?
      I was blessed last week to attend a conference in Atlanta. It is a conference for young Christian leaders. Okay, so I consider myself neither young, nor a leader, but Ann Voskamp was scheduled to be there, so I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to attend.  (In case you aren’t familiar with who Ann Voskamp is, she is the author of “One Thousand Gifts” and has a wonderful blog: www.aholyexperience.com).  There were a variety of speakers and preachers, and the theme of the conference was “Change Makers”.  During the course of the three days of preaching, worshiping, singing, listening, and learning, I found myself to be challenged, convicted, and inspired. It was a time of renewal for me, a filling of my soul. I hadn’t realized how empty I had become from the pouring out of myself until I was being poured into.
      There were many moments over the course of the conference that I felt convicted.  There were very few distinct words that I can quote at this moment, but for me, the overall theme that resonated with my heart was the need to know that I am called.  That it isn’t just my husband who has a calling. I do. We do. My family does.
      I have had a hard time living into this as we’ve journeyed here in seminary. Though I have always supported and encouraged my husband in his calling, I have always thought of myself in the support role, that this was his calling, not ours. One of the first times I ever heard someone say that it is the entire family that is called into ministry, not just the individual, it caused me to pause.  But I pushed it off, thinking that if we as a family are being called, that is great.
Once he graduates.
Once he is appointed in a church.
Once things start to happen in his ministry…
That is when I can get involved, that is when I can be “called” into ministry with him.
     But not now. Now is just a time for me to be the supportive spouse.  The one to work, make a little money to pay the bills, the one to chauffeur kids around.  I left my calling back in Minnesota, when I had to leave my business, when I realized I couldn’t practice massage here in Kentucky without a lot of hoops to jump through, when I couldn’t find employment in our first year here.
      I have been humbled, bowed low now, as I realize I have a calling. It is to live out the life I’ve been given.
Right now.
Right at this place, in this moment.
     Perhaps it isn’t what I envisioned, what I was planning.  Perhaps that is the beauty of what happens when God calls us.  He calls us to minister to those around us, to be His hands, His feet, right where we have been planted, whether it be for a short season or a long one.  I do not have to do grand things, or be someone or something that I’m not. I just have to lean into the life I’ve been given, living it with reckless abandon and joy, offering it up to the one who has given me this beautiful life.
      At this moment, I am called to do what some may think are little things.  Parenting. Being a wife, a mother. Working in my corner of the world, trying to encourage those who live in this community.  Being a friend. A listener. Being a part of the healing academy.
But it is the little things that make a great impact.
    Perhaps you, too, have found yourself feeling adrift. Feeling as though you are here to be the support system and nothing else. Perhaps you have struggled with finding your purpose and place here, in this place. Perhaps you, too, are wondering why your life, your calling, feels as though it is on hold as your spouse lives into theirs.
     Let me encourage you. You are not alone. You are not the only one who feels this, who knows the ache of feeling purpose-less.
     The beauty of living here, in this place, is that we have people who can help you realize YOUR calling, your purpose.  Through spiritual direction sessions with Equipping Lydia, or healing prayer sessions with Peg Hutchins or members of the Healing Academy, you can be affirmed, prayed for, listened to.  Or perhaps you just need to be soaked in Christian love through a Walk to Emmaus weekend, or have quiet time with God at the Abbey of Gethsemani.
     Know this, dear ones:  your time here is not a mistake, a holding pattern before your life and your spouse’s ministry (and yours) begins.  This is a time that you can use to be refined, to grow, to live into being the person that God has called you to be.  Right here. Right now.

Growing a Community

We have fun in our department being creative, brainstorming new ways of connecting people to one another, bringing the Seminary community different ways to interact. We love to program, to really think through what the needs and desires of the community are, and try to meet those needs through our events and programs.

We help foster connections.

We can provide the time and space to meet one another. We can help give you tools to strengthen your marriage, or your parenting skills, or your group interactions. We can help you find a small group to be a part of, or help bring you in to a giant meal with your neighbors. We can give you “adult” time by caring for your children in childcare so that you can talk to other grown-ups.

We want to provide as many opportunities as possible for you to meet new friends and connect with others in our community.  We offer monthly potlucks, women’s communion, Us Time (a marriage enrichment time), and an ESL class for international spouses.   We help put together small groups at the beginning of each semester for students, spouses, and couples. There is the opportunity for Spiritual Formation Mentoring.  There is childcare provided for all of our events (except for potlucks) and during chapels on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We also have fun, random events like the Seeds Family Worship concert or the ATS Color Fun Run/Walk that give you the space to come out of your home and see one another. We help provide opportunities and places to interact with others.

But we cannot build community.

That is up to each one of you.

Community is built upon caring for one another, helping one another, loving one another.  Community is built by sharing, by being open and vulnerable, by honest and loving communication.  It is built by spending time with one another, intentional time growing friendships, cultivating deep conversations, sharing our stories.  It is built by getting to know your neighbors on a deeper level that just a “hello” on the street on in the hallways. Community grows by putting trust in one another, by having a spirit of hospitality, by doing simple things with one another to connect on more than a surface level.

But it takes being bold, stepping out of your comfort zone, stepping out of your home, or study carrel, or the library.  It takes boldness to step into and live into community.

It is up to every person to choose to live into community. It is a choice, and sometimes a hard one, to come and be present and to build community with one another.  It can be difficult to come to things and just BE.

In our world of always doing, always going, there is something wonderful and glorious in taking the time, the moment, to just be present, to be engaged, without pretense or expectations. There will always be papers to write, places to go, and work to do. But when you can come, be with those who are in the same situation, who understand exactly what you are going through, those are the times that you can relish. That is the community we want to foster. That is the space and time that we want to give you, as a precious member of this community.

But we need you.

It takes more than a department on campus to build community. It takes more that one or two people with a heart for others. It takes you. And me.  It takes us pouring into one another, being honest and real. It means risking.

Are you ready to risk? Are you ready to grow a community that cares for one another, that loves, that forgives?

Are you ready?

 

 

Formation Ministries at Asbury Theological Seminary