I had some of my students submit video selfies of gratitude. I hope these three minutes put a smile on your face and stoke your holiday spirit.
Every Thanksgiving I think about this poem from the ever-quotable Chesterton:
You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
G.K. Chesterton, “A Grace”, Collected Poetry
Even in 2020 there is so much to be thankful for. I am grateful that my family has stayed healthy. I am grateful that we live in an age when scientists can produce three vaccines for a new pandemic in less than a year. I am grateful that even in the midst of a pandemic I have a place to live and food to eat.
I am grateful that I love my job — I get to minister at one of the most amazing places on earth. I am grateful for the team of people praying for and providing for this ministry. I am grateful that even in the midst of a pandemic we were able to meet and minister to new people — I hadn’t met six out of the twenty students in the above video before fall quarter began. How wonderful!
I am grateful that God loves, that God forgives, and that God will bring justice. I am grateful that He created a wonderful world and filled it with good things. I am grateful for the cross and for the empty tomb, and I am grateful that in just two days my family will begin decorating for Christmas to celebrate the gift of Jesus — God with us.
May the rest of your 2020 be filled with occasions for gratitude, and may your 2021 be outstanding!
I just received an email from Chad Hartnell, an alumnus of our ministry back in Springfield, who had some very kind words for us. With his permission, I share them here:
Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Melanie and I have enjoyed receiving newsletters detailing what the Lord is doing on the Stanford campus. How exciting! I had and have absolutely no doubt that the Lord is using you and Paula to accomplish great things for His kingdom! I also wanted to underscore how much your and Joe’s leadership is impacting my life right now.
We are blessed to be a part of a wonderful church in Tampa. Mel and I recently returned from leading a missions trip to South Africa for nearly three weeks. Melanie administrated people’s finances, organized the details, and was the point person for the team. She definitely has the spiritual gift of administration. She did an impeccable job! Our experience in Chi Alpha missions was the model we used in team preparation. We had 10 people on our team who ranged from the 20’s to the 60’s. We were all over the generational map, but we connected with each other and with the South Africans in a powerful way. Thanks to what we experienced in Chi Alpha, we were able to lead a missions trip that not only transformed people’s paradigm about missions, but also laid a strong foundation for the church’s mission vision for the future.
I still have the five-fold philosophy tattooed on my forehead. In fact, I am observing that many churches have a difficult time keeping a balance among all five areas. Leadership gets excited about one area and forgets about the other four until people start feeling a void. I know that seasons exist that change the balance, but I am still learning what that looks like. “Balance” is probably one of the most difficult issues in life because it constantly changes. I think it is easier to achieve, however, if you know what it is you need to balance. Thanks to you and Joe, I know that a church (as well as a campus ministry) must be founded on worship,discipleship, fellowship, prayer, and witness. I just realized yesterday why we had the structure in place for Spring Leadership Retreat. We were planning activities around our five-fold philosophy to balance our growth in each area. The light came on a little late, but it makes complete sense now. What a great structure!
I put this up not only for the sake of my vanity (although there’s probably a little of that), but also to reinforce the message I keep repeating: college ministry is strategic ministry. What we do in these few years with students shapes the rest of their lives.
To all of those who pray with us and support us financially, I say thank you. And I also say: your partnership bears fruit both now and for years to come.
One of our alumni (Nethaneel Flake) posted this to a group discussion list and I thought some of you might find it interesting. To give you context, Nate was a linguistics major who set off for the Orient upon graduating. He had no definite plans except to practice his language skills.
For those of you who know me and might be wondering, I’d just like to let you all know what I’ve been up to in the last month.
So, it turns out that after spending a week in China (Xiamen) making friends and finding a university to spend a semester, I had to return to my Aunt’s house in Hong Kong to apply for a Chinese student visa. But, while in Hong Kong, I found out my classmate from my YWAM discipleship training school in France was in Taiwan with his Los Angeles church. They were in desperate need of a translator and helper in their summer English camp, and I was in desperate need of a place to spend a month, so I came on down. I’ve had such a great experience among these Taiwanese Christians that I have decided to study here instead of China…also, I need make a bit of dough on the side to pay my bills, and frankly, teaching English in China is like working for peanuts.
I feel a lot more at home here at this church than I do at Stanford. People seem much more cooperative than competitive, and working with the kids here has been much more rewarding than Bayshore (that may be because while at Bayshore I learned a few things about dealing with kids from the first day you meet them). I’m really hoping I can find ways to have an impact on the kids here of all ages, both in English classes and hopefully also on public basketball courts. We’ll see what actually happens.
I’m very very aware of God’s work in my life right now. All I was hoping for during this six month window was a few friends and if possible, contact with a church. Now I find myself completely immersed in both. Being surrounded by pure-hearted Christians with healthy life goals (as opposed to the self-concerning overachieving one I’ve developed over the years) has already begun to have its effect on me. I’m excited to know that I will be spending the next 6 months living in a room at the church/pastor’s house and earning money by tutoring mostly young adults that I already know and like.
All I have to do is get all the visa paperwork for the university finished by tuesday, fly to Hong Kong, get the new visa, hang out with my friends in Xiamen and then come back here in early september (if I come back earlier, my visa will expire before the six months is up).
So, when you think of me, pray that with such a complicated plan everything will fall into place. My biggest fear/lack of faith–going broke–appears to be taken care of. Instead of having to beg people to help me find a job or let me be their tutor, everyone has come to me and asked. A couple high school students gathered enough of their friends together and organized their schedules so that I can reach my minimum monetary requirements teaching one English class, twice a week.
Well, that’s it. I just wanted to stay in touch. Write me back when you get a chance, but if you don’t I understand. We’re all too busy for our own good, aren’t we?
Your Brother in Christ,
Getting this email was cool for two reasons.
1) It was good to hear from Nate.
2) It reminded me of our vision all over again. When we touch the campus, we touch the world.
Check it out: our very own Chi Alpha president, Luis Trujillo, is in the Stanford Daily for helping to construct a community center for abused teens and others in Guatemala: Class designs facility for Guatemalan town.
A Stanford architecture class is playing a vital role in the construction of a community center and school in Amatitlan, Guatemala. Designing all aspects of the project from dormitories to a church and retreat center these students will show their work at a professional presentation to potential clients and contributors on Monday.
The Guatemalan facility will be a campus for the Center for the Restoration of Women and the Socially Disregarded, also referred to as the CEREM project, after the Christian organization sponsoring its development. The center will act as a residential center and school for homeless children and former prostitutes, as well as a church and place of retreat.
One of the amazing things about CEREM is the people who started it, said Luis Trujillo, another teaching assistant who is also acting as the client representative responsible for communicating the facilitys needs to student designers. They have really challenged me to give all that I have. You dont do this because you feel sorry for these people, but rather you do it out of love for them and the potential that you see in them.
Luis has actually been the key player in this thing from start to finish. He’s got a marginal role in the article, but Luis is the guy who set the ball in motion, hooked CEREM up with the Stanford class, and has generally been pushing to make it happen!
Way to go, Luis! We’re proud of you: getting a Stanford class to design a Christian ministry center is an awesome way to leverage the gifts and opportunities God has given you.
UPDATE: there’s another article on the Stanford website that covers the project from a slightly different angle. It also gives Luis a little more prominence (well-deserved, I might add).
are in a real struggle for eternal souls, and you are living on the most
fertile mission field in the world; the college campus. I vividly remember
these words from Glens sermon. They often echo in my heart as the homework
piles and the semester drones on. This is just one of the many perspectives
I have learned from Glen and Paula.
I came to SMS as a sophomore, transferring from a school
out of state without knowing a single person. In desperation I tried to
plug into a ministry and found myself drawn to Chi Alpha because the
group was passionate, personal, and genuine. Later I found the group
was a reflection of the leadership.
Glen and Paula practice what they preach. Their faithfulness
to Jesus Christ and this college ministry has made Chi Alpha successful
in my life, and in the lives of many other students as well. Their passion
is contagious. Maybe even more importantly, Glen and Paula believe in
me, a university student. They saw potential in me that I could not see
in myself and diligently cultivated it. They are so approachable and willing
to sacrifice time to pour their lives into students like me. Their time,
prayers, and encouragement have changed the course of my college career
How can I begin to describe how Chi Alpha has literally changed my world,
turned it upside down, made me a new person! When I came to college my
heart was aching and ready to encounter Jesus Christ, although I didnt
know it. When I first came to Thursday night fellowship, I was uncomfortable
and a bit taken aback by the atmosphere. But soon God displayed His incredibly
amazing love through all of the people involved at Chi Alpha. I joined
a small group, and in November of my freshman year, after TNF one night, I gave my life to Christ. I began an amazing journey into life
with Him. Through Chi Alpha here at SMS I have met two of the most gracious,
loving, and influential people in my life, Glen and Paula Davis. Starting
my sophomore year I was just fine, but during the Christmas break I experienced
an enormously confusing, depressing, and life-changing stage in my Christian
walk. I began questioning almost everything I could make up a question
for. During this time Glen began doing his Bowling Alley Theologian
thing, and I started coming to talk to him about my questions. I found
that he has abounding wisdom from God, and uses that wisdom to share Gods
love in a practical way. I discovered that he was able to explain things
in ways that I could understand, ways that no one else could. And he cared
deeply about me and my life. Because of Glens help, I gradually made
my way back to a healthy life of love for Jesus. Last semester I also
began to talk to Glens wife, Paula, about other issues I could not talk
to Glen about because he suggested she could help me. I am now in my junior
year, and Paula and I have become very close friends too. She has shown
me so much love and appreciation that whenever I need or desire comfort
and care, I can just seek this awesome couple out and they let me know
how much Jesus loves me. They drive me to church every Sunday, take me
out to lunch to talk with me about my life on a regular basis, and inspire
me to love people more. I cannot thank God enough for planting Chi Alpha
here at SMS and for placing Glen and Paula here at this time to minister
to me and the other needy students on campus.
This first time I heard Glen speak was in the fall of 2000. Glens message was about attaining a desire for wisdom. His message began with a memorable story about he and a roommate accidentally lit his carpet on fire. This usually happens when flammable liquids and aerosols are sprayed on the carpets. This thought was foreign to Glens roommate before he struck the match.
As Glen told his story, every post-teenage boy in the room, that had ever taken a match to aerosol can, played WWF in the backyard, or licked a pole in winter, sat with and attitude of understanding and agreement. This was really a funny story, but the importance was stressed later. Proverb 1:7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Glen has understood the value of wisdom and has been encouraged to desire Gods wise instruction. This was evident to me, that Thursday night a year and half ago, when I heard his message.
I spent the next month outlining Solomons teachings and instructions laid out for his sons. I can say, because of my relation to Glen through his message, I was encouraged to learn the Fear of God. Since then I have learned about obedience, a right behavior, patience, humility, diligence, and above all love.
summer before I started college, I was really struggling spiritually. A friend told me that I should check out Chi Alpha, so a little grudgingly
I went to the first meeting. I felt the presence of God in that meeting
like I had never before. I decided to get involved in a small group
Bible study and began to let God change things in me. I was taken through
several different stages of discipleship and learned what it meant to
truly worship. God brought me from a lukewarmness and created a great
passion in me for seeing His message carried across our campus and into
the world. Last year I was able to serve as a small group leader and Paula
was my small group coach. She taught me a lot about leading people–being
real with them, meeting them where they are at, and growing with them.
I am thankful that God put Chi Alpha and all the people that are a part
of our ministry in my life. The lessons I have learned in the past three
years have been invaluable.
Chi Alpha has rocked the very foundation of my life.35mm lens on canon digital camera
It provided an outlet for God to take a prideful, backsliding kid who enjoyed
playing church and turn him into someone who is constantly seeking and following
after God. I became a believer in high school, but XA is where I learned
to walk the path of the believer. The course of my life was changed because
an intern from XA decided to talk to a young, purple-haired, freshman while
he was taking a nap outside. This is my third year in college, and my third
year in XA. Last spring break I had the privilege to go on a XA mission
trip, led by Glen Davis, to South Beach Miami. A good word to use when describing
Glen is knowledgeable. When mentioning him to others I often say, If its
a book, Glen has read it. But knowing about God only takes you so far;
knowing God is much more important. Both of these kinds of knowledge are
displayed through Glen. I really saw this during the mission trip. We did
some witnessing on the campus of the University of Miami. While we were
there, Glen did some open air preaching. This was not hell-fire and brimstone
stuff, but the respectable, honest addressing of questions people had about
Christianity and Jesus. Not only does an activity like this take gall, but
also it takes authentic wisdom to do it effectively. Needless to say, Glen
knows his stuff. But as I mentioned earlier, knowledge about God can only
take you so far. Glens knowledge of God is displayed just as much. We did
homeless ministry in South Beach. We did more than just tell these people
about Gods love for them; we actually demonstrated it in a practical way
(James 2:15–17) by feeding them and listening to them. Whenever I have a
question about, generally anything, Glen is almost always the first person
I go to. Glen and Paula are both really great, God-following people. And
I would be saying that even if they werent letting me do my laundry at
their home. 🙂
I have been actively involved with Chi Alpha over this
past year. My family background is strongly Christian and I have participated
in the church for as long as I can remember. But when I came to SMS, I
was in need of more than the typical Christian support group. God has
done so much in me personally through the students and the leadership
of Chi Alpha. My small group has connected me closely with girls who
have brought me encouragement, accountability, and support. Relationships
I have built with students and mentors have been a vital part of my spiritual
growth throughout this past year. I most recently had the opportunity
to go to Inverness, Scotland, on one of the Chi Alpha mission teams. What
an experience! I was blown away at the things God was doing while we were
there. The highlight of the trip for me was the honor of leading a student
to Jesusa first for both of us. I have never felt such a freedom to share
Gods love in such a real and practical way as I did then. That moment
was one of the most precious I have ever experienced. My eyes were opened
to how seldom I have taken the time and energy to invest in those around
me here at the university. I now purpose to be intentional about impacting
my circle of influence. Please pray that God would continue to use Chi
Alpha and the students at SMS to make a mark for Christ on the campus.