I woke up last Monday morning to a phone call about one of our students who passed away in a car accident the evening before. I barely had two conversations with Ryan Schutze, a freshman at UNT and consistent member in our community. That day a group was organized to pray for Ryan's family and friends as well as share stories about his life. I learned a lot about him as several close friends and acquaintances shared stories and prayers. It became clear very quickly that Ryan tried hard to live his life for Christ. He was a part of another campus ministry and a fraternity. In the fraternity he was the chaplain of his pledge class and his reason for joining was to reach out to the people Christians often judge and neglect. He was known in that group for talking about his faith and retreating to quiet places for prayer and reading of scripture during social events. It was inspiring to know the purpose he had and see about 300 students show up to his memorial service on campus (the majority being his fraternity brothers).
As the week continued I learned more news of other tragic things happening in various students' lives. My heart became quite heavy. I'm reminded of John 11:35 as Jesus weeps for the pain that his friends were feeling over Lazarus' death. I feel as though the phrase, "Matt wept." could have been appropriately interjected into the transcript of my life this week. Now I don't tell you all of this to bring your spirits down, because I am trying to make a point. Please don't think that I'm depressed or not doing well. I'm doing great! Just keep reading.
So we had a Christmas service this past Friday night where 3 students, Melissa, and I shared thoughts on the meaning of Christmas. What I shared (after making an announcement about Ryan passing away) was that though this is a dark time we don't mourn like world does (1 Thes. 4:13-18). I would go ahead and lump in all of the other things that have been weighing on my heart and say that even though this has been a dark week I don't look at it the way the world might and see only tragedy. I know God's got it and because of that I have hope. Now tying this to the meaning of Christmas: Christ came into the world during a dark time as well. Just imagine what it was like back then. The Jews were under Roman authority and the king in power, Herod the Great, wasn't afraid to take the lives of many children to try and kill baby Jesus. And just because he felt threatened! Jesus' family fled to Egypt until Herod was dead. That sounds a lot scarier than the world we live in today. Despite that adversity God had everything under control and Jesus, though a delicate baby, brought life and hope to a dying world. That's what we are celebrating at Christmas time.
On a lighter note we had a Christmas party Saturday night. It was a great time to get everyone together to act goofy before finals and everyone leaves for the holidays. Honestly I wish you could have been there to see. Everyone was divided into groups of about 8-12 people. They were assigned different "family traditions" that they had to act out such as singing Christmas carols to other families, making popcorn necklaces, and white elephant gift exchanges (or some families gave their gifts away to other families!) to name a few. We ended with the cores competing in a musical/skit contest. This was definitely my favorite part since we have some very creative and talented students in our group. The best performance, according to the judges, was a group that performed "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and they actually dressed up collectively to form a human Christmas tree:
Next Friday is our last official meeting before the semester is over. It's wild to think the year is about halfway over. I'm really happy with how this semester has gone. I've learned a lot and expect to learn a lot more next semester. We've got a lot of planning to do in preparation.
Please be in prayer for:
- Ryan Schutze's family and close friends as they are hurting right now.
- The fraternity brothers Ryan impacted to come to Christ through the influence of his life.
- Various other students struggling with tough situations.
- God's guidance as the staff prepares for next semester.
- A productive break for the staff and students. That we get adequate relaxation but remember to use the time to benefit others rather than make it all about ourselves.
As always, thank you so so much for your continued support. I'm glad to have so many Godly people consistently in prayer for my ministry to the UNT campus. It's truly a blessing. God is GOOD!
Yours for the Campus,