Over this last year I have been involved in several ministries. There are two that stand out to me as being the most notable. The first is my working with a young individual out of WWVA who (prior to meeting me) expressed a desire to be baptized. My goal was to help facilitate this desire by meeting with him regularly and going through materials to prepare him not only for baptism, but also for the Christian life that follows. We have made progress in this endeavor and I hope to continue and finish it this summer when he will become baptized.
The second ministry is that I have been working with a young individual who has grown up in a very much non-Christian home and lifestyle. My goal was to have regular Bible studies with this individual, in hopes that the Hoy Spirit would be able to do His work in any amount possible. l am proud to say that the goal was not only achieved, but surpassed! This young individual has expressed the desire to become baptized!
Both of these ministries have been a blessing to me, as I was able to see the Holy Spirit working on the “front lines”, and I am very happy for the decisions that were made to follow Christ. This experience has certainly been a blessing and an honor, and I have gained extremely valuable experience for my future work in ministerial capacities.
This year as I’ve been working the Pastoral Mentoring Program, there have been several experiences that have really stood out to me. I didn’t take part in any big emotional conversion moments or anything while I’ve been working with the youth of the Walla Walla University Church and Walla Walla Valley Academy. However there have been some very meaningful and significant aspects to this year.
One of my main responsibilities this year was to help organize and lead a youth mission trip to Seattle. There were many students who had never been on a mission trip before and many who had never seen poverty and hardship this close to home, Being able to open up their understanding and awareness of the struggles in the world and especially teaching them how to serve and minister to their fellow-man was a tremendous privilege and blessing, I got to watch kids go from being nervous and uncertain about talking and interacting with homeless people to praying with them and for them and being genuinely concerned for their well-being. Throughout worships and daily service, the kids really grew in their walk with God and their Christian service experience.
Another of my primary responsibilities this year was to start and lead a youth worship band. It was exciting to see the kids grow in their confidence as musicians, and it was especially wonderful to see them truly embrace genuine worship, a fairly new concept for some. It was a great avenue for showing kids that they are loved and cared for and have something significant to offer the church and the world. It has also been positively affecting the students’ families. There is at least one family of one of the band members which had been attending and participating in church less and less; but they came to every church service that the band played for and began participating and engaging in the band’s ministry. The band had a tremendous mission this year and served as a tool of evangelism not only for those who heard it but for the participants and family of participants involved. All in all, it was a beautiful experience to be a part of, and I simply loved to see how God blessed the ministry.
I had the chance to work with a student that goes to Walla Walla High School. He came around the table where we have free food for the students walking home. When he would come around, he would generally grab some food and leave. We only once invited him to our youth group on Thursday nights, and he didn’t seem interested then. However, one day he randomly asked about youth group. So we invited him. I ended up taking him home that night and he opened up to me about his life. He suffers through anxiety that leads to blackouts, depression, physical and emotional abuse, bullying, and even more. His parents are divorced. His mother is a meth addict. His father is abusive and an alcoholic. He ended up asking me if Christianity would be a good option for him. I didn’t answer that question that night because I felt that if he thought Christianity was the answer, then ran into hardship within Christianity without knowing what he was getting into, it wouldn’t be helpful. So I offered to meet with him every week. Over the course of time I was able to talk to him about his struggles. I even took him in to see Paddy McCoy, the campus chaplain who himself struggled with anxiety. Through that, he was able to gain some semblance of control over his anxiety. He still struggles with it, but it doesn’t dominate his life like it used to. Within a month, I saw a difference in his life. The kid who wouldn’t smile and struggled to interact with others actually smiled and had a genuinely good time at youth group. It’s been a difficult journey for him since then as well. Satan has been at work to keep him from the truth, but God has been working harder to show him that truth. I’m excited to see where God takes him from here.
My experience with the Pastor Mentoring Program was in many very differing facets. The one that has made the most difference for me has been my involvement with the youth of the University Church. I helped give Bible Studies to a girl from Roger’s Elementary, I have been a staff member in the High Five Youth Group, and I have enjoyed teaching various children’s Sabbath school classes.
The highlight for me has been the growing relationships that I’ve formed with the kids, and which I hope to keep forming in the coming year! Some of the kids that attend High Five in particular have gone through some really rough situations. Though my advice may not make a huge difference, it has been rewarding to just be there as someone for them to talk to someone who will listen and care.
A moment I especially enjoyed was when we did a Leadership Day with the kids. Some went to the skit group, others to the baking group, and so on. I was one of the leaders for the preaching group. As we began and the kids split up, I didn’t really expect anyone to come to the Preaching Group. But lo and behold, three did come!
I got to train one on how I prepare sermons, and I helped walk him through some steps in deciding what point he wanted to make and some Bible stories and illustrations that would apply and explain his point. I felt so proud when he was able to present the little sermon he had prepared! It reminded me of when I was in grade school and was given the opportunity to speak. What made the difference for me was having someone to mentor me and someone who believed in me and here I am, a Theology major! When I looked at that kid, I tried to see the best potential in him and encourage it, and I only hope I can be one of those who believed in him and helped push him toward his dreams.
Another rewarding thing I did was organize a new annual event for the University Church called the Shorter Table an opportunity similar to Longest Table for the winter months with the goal of connecting University students with members in the church. Members signed up to have students come to their home for a Sabbath meal. Though it was much more work than I expected, it was well worth it for the comments of success I heard afterward! One couple had over 15 students come to their home, and have since had them back multiple times because they formed such a good relationship! The students were glad to have a warm place to go and a home cooked meal on a cold Sabbath afternoon. The church members were glad to have an easy way to connect with some students they wouldn’t have met otherwise.
I have learned so much through this program, and I’m excited to continue learning. It has been a rewarding experience and an inspiration and catalyst for the future.
This year I was privileged to work primarily with junior-high students from the Walla Walla University church and Rogers Adventist School. Young people this age begin to grow into the people they will be for the rest of their lives. It is a crucial time in their lives because they are forming their identity.
I was able to work beside WWU Church Youth Pastor Kris Loewen with 3 students (Christian, Chase, and Fisher) at Rogers Adventist School after the three had expressed a decision to be baptized. We led these students in Bible studies up to their baptism during Fall quarter. Even after their baptism we continued to meet with them. It was such a wonderful experience being able to get to know these kids and lead them into a closer walk with Jesus through a better understanding of the Bible and God’s message in it.
Through working with Pastor Kris, I was also able to participate in, and later help lead out, a retreat for young-adult men. In March we took most of the WWVA senior class on this retreat. During this time together—through talking, listening, and doing—we were able to observe and experience a growing awareness of ourselves and the others in the group and the work that God is doing in us as men. As the retreat progressed, the men shared many of the things they struggle with. One student, especially, opened up and shared a lot of especially heavy stuff he had on his heart. Essentially we could say that he cried out for help. We were there, we showed up, we were present and available to help him through his time of great need which included praying for him, of course, but also referring him to someone trained in dealing well with the pain he experienced. All the young men opened up and shared their struggles. We were able to dialogue with them, teach them and learn with them, and grow together to a closer understanding of who God is calling us as men to be.
God’s presence has been greatly experienced here on this campus. The Pastor Mentor Program is a great way for students to intentionally get involved in not only His presence but His work.
As a student pastor intern I have had the privilege of being part of a small Collegiate Sabbath School at the Village Church. A few students come from Walla Walla University, and just as many come that attend Walla Walla Community College or are in the working world already. One particular Sabbath, the regular leaders of the Sabbath School were out-of-town and I was in charge. It was a very small group on the Sabbath, and I wondered how discussion would go, as this forms the backbone of our time together. There may have been six people there.
Perhaps two-thirds of the way through our time, several had to leave. What was left was myself and three of four other young men. We were now in dire straits, or so I thought. In reality, God was preparing us for a special time together. I had been able to get to know the guys pretty well over the time I had been at the church, so we were all fairly comfortable with each other. Soon the discussion came to areas where we were able to talk about struggles men tend to have with the opposite sex. There was honest discussion as we chatted about something real in our lives. We resonated with each other, we discussed ways of dealing with struggles we had, and I left very encouraged and happy.
God has a way of taking moments that could go the wrong way and turning them into pivotal experiences. I won’t soon forget the time that only a few guys stayed for the entirety of Sabbath School. God led us to solid, uplifting discussion and perhaps gave a young man something he needed to hear that day. Being privy to such moments is exciting, and just one of the great things I experienced as a pastoral mentee.
During my stay at Village church, I had an incredible time and gained a lot of valuable experience. One of the highlights that stood out for me was having the opportunity to meet with a little girl once a week every Thursday night and give her Bible studies. It was really a neat experience to be able to build a relationship with her as well as her family, who were also in the process of Bible studies. Now that we have come to the end, she and her parents have made the decision to be baptized in the very near future. It was an incredible experience to be apart of that spiritual growth process in her young life and to see her making decisions for Christ.
There is something amazing about the way God uses us when we are truly willing. Throughout this quarter I have had the incredible opportunity to work with Pastor Mark Etchell at the Walla Walla City SDA Church in Walla Walla, Washington. While duties like preaching, and learning technical abilities from Pastor Etchell have also been focuses of this experience, my main duty this quarter has been as one of the Youth Pastors on his leadership team, where myself and two others plan, prepare, vision, facilitate, and conduct weekly meetings and outreach to young people at the City Church. This has been such an amazing experience I could probably tell story after story about the way God has worked through this ministry for His Kingdom, but one stands out in my mind.
Throughout the entire year a consistent theme for us in discussion time has been the existence of sin in the world, and we have spent a lot of time on talking about why bad things happen to good people, God’s plan for every individual, and the message of salvation, Many of the kids we are working with come from broken homes, and really tough backgrounds. One girl in particular had her mother pass away after a pretty terrible car accident. She has consistently asked questions about life after death, and one night we decided to split up into groups to go through some of the harder questions the kids had on the more personal level. I went around my small circle of teenagers and asked them about any unanswered questions about God they may have had, and promised to do my best answering.
I am by no means a scholar yet, and I have so much to learn, but what took place next is a testament to how God uses us even through our inadequacies. The same girl mentioned above raised her hand, and asked, “If God is a loving God like you’ve said, how can he send people to such an awful place like hell?” Now it is one thing to have a stock theological reply for someone, or a thesis statement to put in a research paper, but answering this question in real-time, for someone who is truly seeking, is something I have never done before. But as I said, the Holy Spirit was at work, so I had the amazing privilege of telling her about the love of God, and how God does not force people to love him, and at the end will leave people to what they have chosen, because he loves them that much, I told her what Seventh-day Adventists believe about hell, that it is not a different dimension where God tortures people for all of eternity, but a final event to eradicate Sin and death in this world.
After I had explained this, she looked quite puzzled, and asked “but even if it is only an event, and not forever, isn’t it still cruel for us who will be in heaven to know our loved ones are destroyed in hell?” To this I admitted to her that while it will be difficult, there will be a time where we will get to see all the moments when God tried his hardest to love our loved ones, even more than we do! I concluded the conversation by challenging her to be the one to share the message of God’s love to her family and loved ones so there is no question as to the opportunity everyone has to be included in the kingdom and family of God. She quietly nodded and quit asking questions.
In conclusion, while this experience was not specifically “soul-winning,” I believe it is an amazing stepping-stone for what God wants to do in her life in the future as we continue to work with her. God is at work in the lives of all of the kids we have coming to Youth Group, and I am excited to see how he tugs at their hearts. Hopefully we will get to celebrate a baptism at some point!
This year has been an amazing year of ministry, and a blessing to both myself, and others in our church and community.
Through the help of my pastor mentor, this year has brought encouraging gains for the Kingdom of Christ on our University Campus, I have been blessed in being a part of a number of wonderful experiences in the lives of student, and also community members that have been a part of the student outreach that we have been working through. I could not merely choose one specific story of people’s lives being changed through our Philadelphia Church ministry, so instead I will highlight some of the high points for the year.
In the autumn we saw one member decide that she was going to ask the Lord where He wanted her life to go. She had been sexually abused by multiple people in the Walla Walla valley, and had felt trapped for years here in her hometown. Her family had not known about her tumultuous past, and worked to keep her here while she looked to get away. As she prayed, God opened doors for her to move to Seattle with plans of starting a ministry for women that had been sexually and physically abused by men in their past. She has been empowered by God to use the destructive nature of her past in order to reach out and help others, and she says that the Philadelphia ministry has been instrumental in her recovery.
Our group of students and young community members were also able to raise $1000 in order to help out two impoverished families in our communities enjoy their first Christmas in years. We all worked together to bring Christmas and the love of Jesus to two families that could barely afford food to eat for the holidays. We put together clothing, food, toys, and even Christmas trees for these families, and were able to serve them in their homes. This act had a profound effect on the families, and also the students that were involved.
One student, the son of a pastor, had been struggling with drinking and drugs for the majority of his college career. I was able to meet him through our group, and we slowly became friends. As he let his guard down and began to be honest with me, I could see that he was struggling and was looking for something more in life. I was able to share with him my own story of poor choices as a young adult, but also how Christ had completely restored my life. We began to pray together, and he decided that he wanted to have his life changed too. He has stopped drinking and doing drugs, and has worked to find more positive influences in his life, and seek to know who God is on a personal level. We continue to grow together as friends, and encourage each other spiritually.
These stories are just a few of the many ways that I have seen God working through the ministry that could only be possible through the help of the Pastor Mentor Program. It has been a blessing in my life spiritually, and it continues to bless the lives of students, and community members around the University Church, and the Philadelphia student church.
One of the biggest projects that I worked on in the program this last year was Bible studies with a young girl for baptism. Using a baptismal study book we went through each week for about an hour.
Once we completed the final Bible study she made the decision for baptism. I was there to support her through the process and then I was there when she was baptized.
I felt a burden on my heart to have a class where college students could come and have a place to share their experience and grow in Christ. This quarter my goal was to start a Sabbath School class and reach out to the students of the community college. I did not make it to reach out to the students of the community college, but I plan on getting to that next year. The Sabbath School was a success, maybe not as amazing as I had hoped, but still very good. The first day there was a couple that had been looking for a place to attend Sabbath School and I saw them and let them know that there was a collegiate class meeting in just a few minutes. The feeling was mutual that it was divine intervention that it just happened to be that Sabbath that they were there.
The population of the group has been sporadically increasing, as to be expected with the college age. The spiritual growth has been amazing. It was awesome to finally see towards the end, that some of the group was very excited about learning more about God and attempting to apply it again. Through the Sabbath School class, we started a small men’s group that is still currently going through a book together. We have taken a couple of trips and done many activities together which have been very rewarding. Overall the new group has been a nurturing and deepening experience