Our Hope In Jesus by Kathryn Hong

 Learning about God's hope through community transformation on the West side.

Learning about God's hope through community transformation on the West side.

 // SAUP week 5

Just a few days ago, we listened to a talk by one of the Intervarsity staff. She was speaking about the Gospel, and how God's kingdom on earth (which is here right now!) is a kingdom of justice, where the poor, the orphan, and the foreigner are cared for, and the privileged, wealthy, and powerful steward their resources, knowing that they earned them only by God's grace. Jesus identified, owned, and overcame our sin, and because of that, we are freed from personal, relational, and systemic sin. She said, "Living in the kingdom means that justice is available to all. Jesus gave his life to save people's lives, and that includes alleviating injustice."

In order to meditate on this hope, we were challenged this week to share stories of hope from our lives with each other and with friends at our ministry sites.  But the best hope stories I heard this week, by far, were from my friend Martin who lives on the East side.

Ten years ago, Martin was working as a paleta (popsicle) seller on his bike, when he was robbed at gunpoint.  He gave over everything he had, but as he rode away, he was shot in the neck. Martin was paralyzed from the next down and is now wheelchair-bound.  But since then, Martin has discovered the love and provision of Christ, and he told this story to our church on the East side, La Luz en El Barrio, as a testimony to the power of God's Word.  God took a situation that was hopeless in the world's eyes and used it to bring hope to me, our church and the East side community.

Claire Steinman
Trinity University

Throughout SAUP, we have engaged with a variety of topics that have been enlightening and challenging.  This week, we continued to explore justice and hope as we live in solidarity with the impoverished.

I realized the individual responsibility that we all have in perpetuating injustice as well as the choice we have to partner with God in order to help with the restoration process.  

The root of injustice is sin and sin manifests in three areas - personal, relational and systemic.  Personal is individual brokenness which then influences your connections with God and others.  These impacted relationships then contribute to the culture and society resulting in systemic issues.  For example, we discussed human trafficking and traced its roots to personal sin.  It begins with someone lusting or dealing with anger - evolving to sexual immorality between people and the objectification of women - and then leads to the global trafficking ring.

While it's convicting and hard coming to terms with the personal responsibility we have to the growing injustice of the world, I was encouraged by the message of hope and restoration that Jesus brings in the suffering servant passage - Isaiah 42.  We looked at the characteristics of the servant, Jesus, whose role was / is to bring people out of their darkness (justice).  He embodies characteristics such as being chosen by God, single-minded, devoted, humble, tenacious, nurturing, calm and strives to bring God glory.  

As a Christian and follower of Jesus, these are characteristics I strive to cultivate in my life in order to love and serve others well.  I desire change in the world and want to say yes to partnering with Christ to be His servant that brings restoration.  SAUP has shown me that injustice has faces.  Injustice is personal.  But so is the solution.  Hope is personal.  Hope is real.  May we continue to strive upwards and onwards.

Kathryn Hong
Baylor UNITE

Reflection & Reconciliation by David Jante & Jane Yeong

 SAUP 2016  week 4

Throughout SAUP we have been challenged with different topics from community to justice to reconciliation.  I would say that my perspective and understanding of these topics has been broadened.

To me, reconciliation is one of those buzzwords that has been thrown around a lot, especially as a student of InterVarsity.  I think many people, myself included, often times unintentionally use the word reconcile when they actually just mean forgiveness.  The two are similar, but I think that reconciliation is forgiveness to the next level.  Reconciliation includes a forgiveness of others AND a clean perspective of the scenario at hand.  There are no grudges in true reconciliation.  

To truly reconcile, we need to look at the three ways we are connected to this world.  The first is personally.  It is only in Christ that we can personally forgive ourselves of the hurt and pain that we have given and have received.  There is so much hope in 2 Corinthians 5:16,17 because those in Christ are new creations!  In Him we are freed from sin.  In Him, we are freed from fear and our shortcomings.  Christ says His love controls us and doesn't regard us according to the flesh.

From this, our personal reconciliation can overflow into our relationships.  The same way we view ourselves in Christ is the way we should view others around us.  They too are not just their flesh, they too have nothing to fear if they share their struggles with us and they too can have this love from Christ if they are willing.  The way we view our relationships should change so that we hold nothing against anyone.  

Finally, we need to reconcile ourselves to the systems of this world.  Whether it is racism or poverty, we cannot simply stand on the sidelines and wait for someone to enter the battle.  God wants us to be the ones spreading this message of reconciliation and the Gospel according to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.  So instead of just observing these injustices, God wants our hearts to hurt for the pain being experienced in unnecessary shootings, underpaid labor and broken families.  Hopefully, this pain in our hearts would lead us to action.  However, we must remember that we only act because we remember God's actions of love and God's reconciliation to us.  Only then are our actions meaningful and we truly believe that His love and reconciliation are worth sharing.

David Jante
University of Houston

When I first heard that we were going to talk about reconciliation, in my head, I was like "Oh, hmm, I don't really hold grudges and I don't think there are people that I need to reconcile with, so this week should be pretty peaceful, yay!"  Little did I know, God had something else in store and told me not to be foolish.  

Throughout the week, I had time to reflect about my past and I realized that I have actually experienced more hurt that I expected.  After one session where we learned more about forgiveness, I asked God to reveal to me the people I needed to forgive in my life, and suddenly, all these feelings from the past kept coming to my mind.  That was when I realized that deep down, I  had never really extended forgiveness to them.  I was puzzled.  I thought I was over the pain and that I had moved on.  I started digging deeper and deeper, trying to find the root and the reason for the hurt.  Through prayer and advice from staff, I found the answer.  All these years, I have been forgiving people out of my own will.  I forgave them so I could feel better about myself.  I forgave because I wanted to be free of the pain and hurt.  But truthfully, I have just been shoving all of these feelings into a box and putting a temporary lock on the box.  The pain and the hurt were still there.  I was just avoiding it and had not experienced true healing.  

I've learned that one can only forgive when we truly understand that God has forgiven us and empowers us to forgive others.  We personally don't have the resources to forgive.  Through God, we will find true healing for ourselves and are able to forgive others that have hurt us.  After understanding this true narrative and truly letting God into my heart, I was able to slowly extend grace upon the people who have hurt me in the past.  It took a lot of prayer and time to do so, but after I did it, I felt a huge sense of relief.  My heart, my mind, and my soul were all at peace.  That was the moment I started my reconciliation journey.  I am currently still in the process of healing, but now that I've learned that God has given us all a message of reconciliation when He reconciled the world to Himself, I am able to confront myself and the people who have hurt me with the ability to forgive. 

Jane Yeong
Texas A&M AAIV

Experiencing Injustice by Dhara Patel

 Night of Lament for injustice in the world, SAUP 2016

Night of Lament for injustice in the world, SAUP 2016

 SAUP week 3

Why?  Why do bad things happen?  During the week of exploring justice, this was the question running through my mind and still does sometimes.  We learned about the working poor, immigrants and the homeless community and were given the opportunity to learn and experience more about each group.  I learned more about the homeless community because I already knew some information on the working poor and immigrants since my parents were part of both.  

I remember being scared that my parents would be taken away from me or that we wouldn't have enough money for dinner because of those situations that were at hand.  I was the only one in my immediate family born in the U.S., so I always felt I would be left alone.  The feeling of loneliness really hit home this week because it made me realize how much more the homeless community lives in isolation.  When I was walking around communities where the homeless congregate in San Antonio, most people were alone, without anyone.  When people asked me how I was taking everything in regarding the homeless community, I was at a loss for words.  I felt like I was wearing a pair of sunglasses that kept blocking the light from me that Jesus intended for me to see.  

After I got the chance to debrief with a staff, I was able to see God's promises at work in all His people  I was able to see the hope and joy through trials and tribulations.  Everyone has their own set of troubles, and we are here to show that light is possible to attain.  God is not doing the injustice, instead, He is waiting for us to do something about those injustices.

Dhara Patel
Texas A&M Thrive

Dreaming of Growth for Campus Ministry

Andy Wong

Andy Wong remembers his first InterVarsity Chapter Camp. He was part of a newly affiliated Asian American chapter at the University of Texas at Austin.

And it was at Chapter Camp that for the first time, he had a sense of being Christian on campus as part of a national movement. “It was kind of eye-opening,” he said.  And, also for the first time, he received leadership training. “I walked away from that experience feeling equipped to lead a small group, and it felt good.”

From that point on, he was involved in a fellowship with a sense of purpose. “That challenged us to consider what being a missional presence looked like,” he said. “It changed the course of some of the things we were engaged with.”

It also changed the course of Andy’s career. He had changed majors several times and even left school to work in a tech job for several years. But as Andy was invited to become a chapter leader and then was mentored by his InterVarsity staff worker, he was encouraged to consider joining InterVarsity staff after graduation.

It was at Urbana 03, InterVarsity’s student missions conference, where he realized more deeply the significance of InterVarsity’s impact on his life and had his call to go on staff confirmed. “I had a sense of God saying to me, ‘Look at what I’ve done in you. How could you serve me to do that for others in reaching the campus?’ It was compelling and convicting; that’s why I’m still in campus ministry,” Andy said.

Andrea Thomas, InterVarsity’s director of marketing and one of Andy’s former supervisors, calls him a maven—an expert in chapter growth who enjoys sharing his expertise with others. “As a Campus Staff Minister, Andy led the largest Asian American chapter in the country to become even larger and more focused on sharing the gospel,” she said. “Now, as the Area Director at UT Austin, he’s leading a huge multiethnic ministry at the alma mater he loves.”

With a South Asian chapter, a Black Campus Ministry chapter, and a LaFe chapter for Latinos, all of which started at about the same time the Asian American chapter affiliated with InterVarsity, plus an International Student Ministry chapter and a multiethnic chapter at UT Austin, Andy believes that InterVarsity is uniquely positioned to help students address difficult race and identity issues as they share the gospel message.

He also believes InterVarsity has some of the best training available for students to help them develop into culturally competent witnesses to the gospel, on campus and beyond. “Our student leaders are developed and trained and then we send them out into the world, to serve in the church and in the marketplace,” he said. He particularly enjoys hearing about InterVarsity alumni who become leaders in their churches, because that also reflects InterVarsity’s vision.

About 500 UT Austin students are involved with InterVarsity one way or another. Andy is also nurturing two new chapters, one at Texas State University at San Marcos and one at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

In addition, the UT Austin staff have just begun a new campaign called Even Greater to engage more alumni as ministry partners to support InterVarsity activities at UT Austin. “We’re sharing the vision of reaching the whole campus and inviting alumni to partner with us," Andy said.

Andrea’s husband Jason Thomas, InterVarsity’s National Field Director for the south central U.S., said that Andy is having a national impact on InterVarsity’s ministry through his membership in the National Chapter Growth Steering Committee. “He uses his design and technology skills to produce high-quality growth resources that are being used around the movement. He loves to make anything he gets his hands on more efficient and relevant,” Jason explained.

Andy admits he enjoys wrestling with a good challenge. “I love working with staff on problems and dreaming of something big,” he said.

With 55,000 students, UT Austin is the fourth largest campus in the U.S. Andy is in the right place.

- Gordon Govier