It has been on my heart to utilize this blog more. There is so much that happens in our Family Formation office, so many things that occur behind the scenes, and I really want to highlight what our team brings to this community and what we offer for students and their families. I want to create an awareness so that we can have members of our community come along side us and help with our ministry. What makes us unique is that we need volunteers and community involvement to make so many of our programs come to life.
Our hearts desire is to offer opportunities for students, spouses, and their children to strengthen their families, grow in relationship to others in the community, and be awash in the love and grace of Christ. This time here at ATS is unique for every person that walks across it’s campus, and yet we all experience so many of the same emotions and difficulties, joys and transformations, mountaintops and valleys.
I want to share with you why Community and Family Formation and it’s ministry is so dear to my heart, and I hope in future posts to share the hearts of the other members of our team.
My husband and I came for a preview weekend in April of 2011. We were on a long weekend, away from our 2 children, exploring several different seminaries. My husband had finally realized it was time to listen to the call on his life, and Asbury was our third, and final, seminary visit. There was something about this place that was apparent from the moment we stepped on the lush, green lawn (coming from wintery Minnesota any amount of green was a joy to behold!). There was a feeling that we got during our time here, this sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and it felt like holy ground. As we journeyed through the preview weekend with many other perspective students, we were impressed by the understanding the seminary had that school was not just for the student. There is a realization here that this is a journey the whole family takes together, and they provide opportunities for growth for the family. I loved the thought of childcare being available for events and chapels, and the chance to audit classes or get involved in a small group even as a spouse. We were sold on this place, for this time in our lives, because it seemed that it would offer exactly what we needed.
And it has. But not always in the way we have expected, or wanted. The first year was a challenge. The emotional toll of transition, along with the surprise pregnancy of our third child, left me longing for what we left behind. I ached with loneliness. My husband poured himself into his studies that first semester, and I felt adrift. I couldn’t work in the field I felt called to, and I couldn’t find any job. Finances were tight. Stress was high. I found myself weeping during chapel more often than not. But I leaned in to the community here. I went to chapel on Tuesdays and Thursdays, taking advantage of the childcare that was offered. I took the Spiritual Formation class with Marilyn Elliott, and found myself stretched and transformed by what I learned and how I grew through the class. I went to every women’s communion, where every speaker seemed to touch me at my core. I joined a small group, and tried to get to know those around me. As an introvert, some of these were more challenging than others, and taxed my already fragile state of mind. My husband also leaned in to the community. He joined a men’s accountability group, and continued to adapt to the rigors of academic life. Together, we attended the monthly Couple’s nights (now known as Us Time) and realized the stress our marriage was under. In our second year, he joined the Healing Academy (and I have also since then) and it has been transformative in our relationship with one another and with our children. We have found healing in places that we did not realize were broken.
My heart breaks for those in our community who are lonely, who feel disconnected. The first year, especially in the throes of transition, is so very hard on a person. One of the many reasons I am passionate about the work we do in our office is because I found a place of refuge and connection through the activities that this office provided in my first year. I know first-hand the ache of loneliness, even when surrounded by people. I understand smiling as you try to support your spouse in their call, all the while wondering why God would bring you to a place so far from family and friends.
THIS is why I am passionate in my work here. THIS is why I know the work we do is important. It touches people, it helps people. I find joy in knowing that we are helping make connections between those in our community, whether it is by helping them move in to their new homes here in Wilmore, or by providing a space for friendships to grow in a small group, or by offering childcare so that parents have a chance to worship in chapel, deepening their relationship with God. I feel blessed to be able to work for a department that has helped me be transformed in my time here.