Looks like the pandemic has given me permission to make campus visits again. Last week – three days in Kansas to see Jake, George and Mark. This week, St. Louis, with Josh, Linda and my other George. Later this week – Iowa, Chad, Tom and Kevin. Why do we do this? Can’t you just supervise people via zoom and call it good?
Showing up matters. In the next few posts I’ll give you a glimpse into my staff members’ worlds, the opportunity for ministry they embody in their work and how they are impacting their campuses. In this post, I give you George Gardner.
George and Sharon live in Manhattan, KS and do GFM ministry through the avenue of International Students. George was an engineer in a former life before God called him to ministry. His style of doing ministry is to connect with students through bicycles, then bring them into community rich in friendship and bible study.
My visit to Manhattan was my first opportunity to join George and Sharon at Bike Nite – their weekly bicycle repair outreach at a ministry on K-State’s campus. I love what I experienced! You would too!
Students need transportation. Students need friendship. George and his team create the perfect storm of welcome, serving and networking. George has a team of volunteers from his church who show up shortly after George’s truck and trailer arrive. They assemble into work-stations on the lawn. Then, as if called supernaturally by the Holy Spirit bike-piper, internationals come from every direction with or without bikes.
Think about what it would take to reach out to Vidya if we were to engage her in her home country. Yet, Vidya and her family have done all the work to get her to this country, into a PhD program here in one of our communities. Vidya showed up last week requesting a bike – she didn’t have one. George and Sharon took down her name and request, introduced her to others and told her to come back this week and they’d have something for her.
Meanwhile George retreats to his magical bike repair garage at home. Using parts from hundreds (literally) of bike carcasses assembles at least three options for Vidya to choose from when we arrived. Vidya was the first student to show up at 5:58pm last Friday. It was a beautiful thing to see her pick out her new best friend (a used Trek mountain bike).
Vidya also met Dileep (another student from India) as well as Ashlyn – an American student volunteer in another ministry George is partnered with. Sharon invited Vidya to the brunch and bible study that meets in their home on Saturdays.
Presence. In a word, presence is why supervisor’s show up when and where staff do ministry. We get to see connection happening. Connection between our staff and their people. Connection between those who are present and the community they are forging. Connection between Christians and non-Christians. I don’t get to see all that in a zoom session. On site I get to see so much more I can affirm our staff for. I get to see staff using their gifts and personalities first hand.
Pray for Vidya. Pray for her to stay safe on that bike as she travels from her dorm to her Chemistry lab every day. Pray for her friendships with Christians on campus. Pray for those friends to share their faith with her. Pray for Vidya to attend George’s Brunch and Bible (Sharon is as good with food as George is with bikes). Pray for her to see Jesus and keep coming back for more.
More on my travels in coming posts. Thanks for your prayers for me!