So in honor of "consecutive day" (10/11/12), here is my second, consecutive installment! (After a month of posting nothing, don't be impressed.)
To begin with, I will readily admit that some old friends of mine are allowed to chuckle that I have the Westmont logo posted here because I've always been one to tease pals about their fancy private Christian education, given that I spent my first twenty-two years at public institutions. To be a Christian in Santa Barbara just about inevitably means you will rub shoulders with Westmont in some way, shape, or form though. I cannot deny that a few times over the years I have had a frustration or two with in-jokes or shared memories that Westmont alums around me have shared in such a way that I felt was exclusive.
HOWEVER, I can happily say just as quickly that I have experienced so many great things from Westmont, mostly in the form of lovely people who graduated from there and went on to represent Christ and the Kingdom of God in amazing ways both big and small. I would venture to say that dozens of former youth leaders I have worked with have been influenced by Westmont, and I have known some remarkable faculty and staff.
And now, I am pretty darn surprised (and thankful) that I now actually find myself to be a paid (though extremely part-time) employee of Westmont. Who'd a thunk it? After three different Mayterms of teaching a five-week course on internships, the Religious Studies department asked me this summer to take on their RS190 internships elective.
However, this decision was not confirmed till a month before school started this fall. Students had enrolled for their fall classes the previous spring, so the only way I could get some students to register for my course would be if they were willing to either pile onto their academic loads further or by dropping a course. Miraculously, on the first day of class (August 30), I had ten students in class! I was thrilled. Though the quickly joy abated just a bit as the "I hate to tell you this but..." emails rolled in. Pretty quickly some students came to realize they could not take the course for one reason or another, and by the second week, enrollment had whittled down to five.
You don't hear me complaining though -- teaching five students is a dream. They are engaged in discussion, diligent in their reading, teachable in spirit, and relatively timely in completing their assignments :) It's a somewhat unconventional course in that it only meets for two hours once every two weeks, since the bulk of their time is to be spent at their actual internships. Two are serving in youth ministry, one is serving in a tremendous ministry that reaches out international students, and the last two are serving the poor on the Westside in a variety of ways.
We are spending the semester integrating theology and practice in real settings, and our class discussions are great fun (for me at least). Slowly I am working through eight core competencies that I consider crucial for living out our faith in ministry settings. (Nope -- not gonna share 'em here. You need to take the class to find out what they are!) In these last years I have really discovered how much I want to equip and develop young believers in leadership principles. But I do not want to just inundate them with theories and aphorisms, sprinkled with some nice stories. Instead, I pray I am able to give tangible, compelling tools and a deep conviction to dive in and take some faith-filled risks.
Admittedly, I am also sad that due to the small enrollment I was not able to fill several internships that I sought out from colleagues around town, so I am praying that I will get another chance to teach this course. Nevertheless, I am not dwelling on that; rather, I'm maximizing my time up there as much as possible (aren't you surprised?). I have already had guest-taught in two other courses, and been invited to two more. And I served as the retreat speaker for the First-Year Retreat (AKA, freshmen). This was pure delight for me! I am still hearing from students I met on that retreat, asking to meet for lunch or coffee. Pinch me, I'm dreaming.
I share all this, hopefully not sounding like humblebrag. I am truly stunned at what I am getting to do. These verses from my morning reading today sum it up well:
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
As I noted yesterday, I rejoice in how these opportunities are allowing me to thrive in so many ways... I feel like a sturdy little tree with roots going down deep, and am blessed by God's persistent love and grace.