Wow, this semester has just flown by! Bet you’ve told yourself something like that recently. But it’s so true. The other day I was looking back at my boilerroom post from Aug 13 – My Hope for Grad Students and it hit me “my vision for my local grad student group, is actually materializing.” Have you ever had an idea you’ve invested time and resources in actually lift off the ground as you watch it move down the runway? It’s so gratifying! Syntrek is like an experimental aircraft achieving sustained flight! Thanks so much for standing out in the cold near the airstrip with me this fall to see if this thing can fly.
Syntrek is a new strategy for one on one discipleship that explores the benefits of Spiritual Friendship. This fall I’ve intentionally networked all my contacts into pairs of students who are exploring themes of soul-care. If you have a minute, hop on the link and check out the blog. Its definitely under-construction at the moment, but we’re building the home-page around a series of 9 foundations. Blog posts will follow. I’m especially excited about the most recent article a member of my team wrote, Am I Safe? My dream is that over time we’ll grow a list of contributors and flesh out the web-site with tools and stories. If you find it helpful, feel free to subscribe. I’m currently using it with students by sending them a link when a new story is posted.
The monthly brunch has also been a big hit this Fall. When you host events with food, it’s just the best when people actually show up! (And it’s just the worst when they don’t.) Beyond that it was so fun to overhear the chit-chat among students when they’re together, off-campus, with each other, and able to enjoy some decompressed company with each other. Megan Hyun is an incredible resource for students. She teaches at UNMC in radiology and oncology. She was in GCF at UW Madison during the years she worked on her PhD in Medical Physics. She’s also a leader in the local GFM Faculty Ministry we’ve been trying to build for the past 5 years. At the monthly brunches I’m trying to bring in guest faculty mentors like Megan to join us. Over brunch she encouraged the group around our theme of Spiritual Friendship as well as shared about how she connects her faith with her teaching and leadership. Students LOVED the chance to ask her questions. I could feel the chemistry she struck with these students. That’s GFM and Graduate Christian Fellowship at it’s best! Pray for us as we continue to grow this group. We’re currently a group of about 12 students. We have another brunch and a holiday party remaining on the calendar for 2022.
Thanks for your prayers! They’ve been impactful for my work these days. Thanks also for your giving to my work. My team and I have been looking at our finances as we head into the second quarter of our fiscal year. I’ll be writing about that in a future post, but it looks like I have some significant work to do before the calendar year wraps up.
There’s nothing quite like staying overnight at someone’s place. When you’re a staff director with InterVarsity who is trying not to kill your budget visiting 10 staff in 4 states, you get creative. At the risk of having your car stolen, you spend the night with your staff members near campus. When you visit a young family of 6 who lives on a farm in the middle of Iowa, there are other hazards to contend with. And you still have to be creative! I had a blast last week on my Iowa State visit.
One of the best culinary reviews I could ever receive for my pizza came from Levi, son of Chad Britten, bi-vocational GFM staff member and organic crop farmer. Chad told me Levi said to him, “Dad, that was the best pizza I think we have ever had.” Think of it. A teenager’s body is like a pizza super-highway with more traffic per year in pizza pies than at any other time in one’s life. Of course the average teen palate is not fully developed all the way up the nutritional pyramid, let’s say. But as regards pizza – I think this young man might just know what he’s talking about.
Fun pics around the Britten’s farm.
Staff families are a wonder to behold up close and personal. God’s faithfulness shines out from them. They are among the most resourceful, close-nit and intelligent eco-systems you’ll find anywhere on the planet. The Brittens farm. They have four very good looking, very above average kids active in everything from jazz to soccer. When you enter the foyer of their home, you’ll pass what looks like a church-pew (no kidding) PERFECT for sitting down and taking your muddy shoes off. OR, as the case was when I visited, perfect for about a dozen plastic Walmart shopping bags each with a dozen tomatoes in it. “You should take several with you, Tim, on your way home. We had to pick the last of them the other day. Cold weather is coming – we’ve got to bring them indoors. We’ll be eating these till Thanksgiving (even though we’re giving them away as fast as we can).”
I dared not displace a single person in this household from their bed. They live in a pretty small farm house with one bathroom. So I asked the Brittens something unthinkable to most of my readers. “Would it be ok if I camp in my tent somewhere out in your 5 acre yard?” I nestled in north of the house within ear-shot of one of those wind-turbine generators. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Not an abundance of sleep that night, but it was so fun to hang out at the Britten farm and make two of my best pizzas so their busy family could eat in shifts around soccer practice and a school concert. I enjoyed a stroll around the property seeing if I could find anything interesting to shoot as the sun went down. It was honestly one of the best staff visits I think I’ve ever had!
After spending the next day with Chad and Tom at ISU, I zoomed back home in the Black Pearl (our 2014 Honda Pilot). The next three days I spent down in Kansas visiting staff at KU in Lawrence and at K-State over in Manhattan. One highlight of my time in Manhattan was meeting a student in George Gardner’s ministry with Internationals. I’ve heard George talk about this guy for three years now and the unusual circumstances surrounding his arrival at K-State. In his home country Christians are the vast minority – and it was there that he actually had completed some biblical studies! As he wraps up his PhD in Chemistry, he explained to me how he longs to locate with his first job near a place where he can attend a seminary! He’d like to land a teaching post so he can at the same time complete a Theological Masters degree from a seminary! He’s interested in a top-shelf program as well – hopefully at a place like Trinity Evangelical Divinity or Dallas Theological Seminary.
Pray for George and this incredible PhD student. He’ll be defending his dissertation (on some variation of organic compound synthesis related to cancer treatment). He’s been such a terrific part of the International fellowship George works with. He and another student from his country are a source of vibrant witness in their department. Pray for God to bless George’s leadership. George and Sharon are wonderful models of servant evangelism. The event in the pics above is Brunch and Bible every Saturday morning. Sharon, George’s wife, recently retired from a career in food service. She does in fact cook many of the worlds greatest dishes (including the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever eaten). My cinnamon roll palate IS quite refined I’ll have you know.
Thanks for your prayers! Please keep my local GSCF group in mind. We have our second brunch gathering of the semester tomorrow at my home!
… part of my job is getting OUT of town, away from my desk, my library and my office. The staff I serve and the supporters who keep me in business are scattered all over my territory: Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. Last week I was in St. Louis Sunday through Thursday, visiting George (staff member who leads our faculty ministry), going with George to his Wash-U faculty bible study, having dinner with George and his wife Barbara, meeting Brian (a possible GFM staff candidate), getting my rental car stolen the second night I stayed at George’s, talking with police about the car, talking with InterVarsity legal about the car, talking with Enterprise about the car, getting a new rental car, hanging out with George at his Lindenwood University group, then finished the day at Pi Pizza with Josh, another GFM staff who works with Wash-U grad students. And that was the first two days!
I switched overnight hosts on the third night and that’s when my trip when from really good (in spite of the car theft) to very fun! The campus visits and time with staff are of course the heartbeat of my job. But I have to say that even though this job involves travel and sleeping in a lot of different beds, it can be a very fun job when it comes to connecting with supporters! I’ll spare you the names just to keep this precious family a little more anonymous, but my overnight hosts Tuesday and Wednesday were just a blast to be with.
When I first started rounding up ministry partners (donors) four years ago, I reconnected with a lot of alumni from my days of undergrad staff Illinois (1987-2006). Almost everyone in this group was a student leader at some point way back then. And just about all of them have been growing families during the Perrys Omaha years. My best guess as to how many current supporters were former students of mine would be about 30 percent! This family is just one of dozens who make up that number. And I had the best time hanging out with them.
The mom (if you can find her in these pics) was a student leader, served on exec two years, married a classmate, went on to get more degrees after her undergrad days, settled in the St. Louis area. Oh, and has four kids! The ones in these pictures. From the minute I walked into their home after a long day of visits on campus I felt like I was going to fit in. Shortly after meeting the daughters in their matching pajamas, out came Ace, Jay and Bo. Ace, Jay and Bo are rats. “Fancy rats.” Very cute and cuddly. Actually soft and fun to hold. They would actually give you tiny little rat-kisses if you held them close to your face. The second night I was there, more animals came out of their cages. A python. And a gecko. And the skull of a deer (kinda doesn’t count, but that was the extent of the animal kingdom).
The second night there, I arrived in time to make some cookies with the girls. I travel ever-ready to just bust out ingredients for peanut butter monster cookies. They did not disappoint! It’s the only cookie I can make. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve had them. I may have even made them with your children!
Other fun moments. Getting trash-talked by one of the kids “you’re just an old-guy, you’ll never beat us at Spot-It.” The kid tells the truth. I got totally humiliated every game. They never tired of laughing at my pathetic stack of cards (compared to theirs). The family just happened to have a spinal decompression table in the basement. It is a kind of torture device like “the rack” but not quite so dangerous. And I was able to join my hosts for a delicious dinner and more conversation about churches, neighbors, jobs, schools, gymnastics, ballet, and martial arts.
If you are one of these people who, like this family, are keeping me in business through your prayers and support, please know that I actually delight in having you on my team! Not only do I need you. I like you. And I like hanging out with you from time to time. It refreshes my connection. It helps me see how your family is growing and how God is using you in your community.
Wait, did you say your car was stolen on this trip?
Yes. I’m grateful not too many of my possessions were in it. I’m grateful it wasn’t stolen from me while I was out using it. But, yes, my little white Hyundai Tucson rental was take from me. Even though all my cookie making supplies I’d brought were also stolen, I managed to not miss a single appointment on the entire trip. I even managed to make a stop on the way there and the way back to connect with faculty members at Mizzou, in Columbia (right on my way). It was a very full trip. It was a first in my 30 plus years of ministry to have a vehicle stolen or even broken into.
Prayers welcome for the coming week:
I have another big trip planned starting tomorrow. Here’s the play by play:
Leave Omaha tomorrow morning.
Catch up with a niece who also supports me and stay over night w her in Chicago-land.
Attend a friend’s memorial service Monday morning in Warrenville, IL.
Visit another alumn (former student leader) in the South Chicago suburbs.
Travel to Iowa City.
Half a day at the University of Iowa and catch up with my GFM staff member there.
Travel to Ames, campus visit at ISU
Camping in one of my staff member’s back-yard Tuesday night.
Making pizza for this staff family after pitching my RIE 3-man Mountaineer.
Meet up with Christian faculty members Wednesday morning at ISU.
ISU Faculty and Staff noon monthly meeting.
Stop through Dodge City to visit with alumni and have dinner.
Overnight in my own bed in Omaha!
Thursday – my staff member in Lawrence, KS.
Friday- my faculty ministry leader at K-State in Manhattan.
Saturday- my international student ministry leader at K-State.
Saturday afternoon about 4 pm, a sunset bike-ride on the Keystone trail in Omaha!
Well, maybe it will be nice enough for a bike ride. Maybe not. At any rate, I’d value lots of your prayers in getting me (and my vehicle) all the way through this week! More on my time in St. Louis in a future post. More about Syntrek.Blog as well! Thanks so much for your partnership!