Increase, O God, the spirit of neighborliness among us, that in peril we may uphold one another, in suffering tend to one another, and in homelessness, loneliness, or exile befriend one another. Grant us brave and enduring hearts that we may strengthen one another, until the disciplines and testing of these days are ended, and you again give peace in our time; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Prayer in times of social conflict or distress, ACNA Book of Common Prayer
CCO Fresno's New Normal
I was still feeling invigorated from Jubilee a few weeks earlier; sixteen students with sixteen unique experiences, all of them encouraging. Spring break would begin in a few weeks, and I was particularly excited for our plan to spend a week near Mount Shasta in Northern California to help a town rebuild after a wildfire. In the meantime, I was taking the first steps toward a goal I'd had to start a tabletop gaming ministry with some students I'd met at Fresno City College. This was mid-March, and I was finally settling into a groove.
After the first couple of cases of COVID appeared in Fresno, I met with some student leaders on a rainy Monday evening. In addition to spring break, we also had about a dozen other events planned for the rest of the semester. We decided to put those on hold, but maybe keep some small in-person gatherings. By Thursday, the city of Fresno issued a shelter-in-place order. The next day, so did the state of California. All our plans were thrown out the window.
It was disappointing and frustrating for me to see such wonderful plans dissipate. The students were feeling much the same. It was evident that God had a different plan, however, so we decided to embrace the change. Some things have remained the same - we still have Bible study on Thursday nights and Geraud & I still meet with students one-on-one (all through video-call, of course). But we've also taken the opportunity to augment our ministry. We've added a Sunday hangout, Monday game night, and Wednesday mid-day prayer to our weekly schedule.Game night on Houseparty app
Change such as this often elicits a fight-or-flight response. Some students have drawn back, but many others have pressed in. One such student, Morgan, has been on fire since Jubilee. Before moving to Fresno in October, Morgan was wary of the church. Through her brother she found First Pres, got involved with our college group, and began opening up to the idea of community. Morgan has always been engaging and inquisitive, but especially so after Jubilee. She left the conference reflecting, "I guess my perspective regarding God is still that of many questions. But I also see now more than ever how merciful he really is and just as much as we should want him, he wants us!" She began vocalizing these questions, prompting hours of great discussion. Additionally, Morgan reflected:
"I want to live a life more pleasing to God, I want to be able to keep my promises to him just as he does with me. I want to have more discipline in my daily life to fill my desperation for the Lord. I need to commit to him in all areas of my life and not just when I feel like it. He is constantly choosing me, and it amazes me that he does so without asking much from me but to love him and give him praise."
Thankfully, by God's grace, Morgan's momentum has only picked up since quarantine began. She has embraced our virtual college group hangouts, sought out opportunities to pray and read at home everyday, and continued asking questions about how Jesus is calling her to serve Him. And the spiritual benefits of her devotion are evident. The first time Morgan and I met, she related some experiences she's had with God and expressed a desire to commune with Him more. Through involvement with the church and regular spiritual disciplines, Morgan's sense of God's presence in her life has indeed increased in spite of social distancing.
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for the students in our ministry, especially surrounding Jubilee and distance ministry. If you're interested in learning more about CCO Fresno's time at Jubilee, you can read a summary I wrote up here.Morgan, second from the right, in Pittsburgh for Jubilee
- Please pray for students who are lamenting a disrupted semester, particularly seniors.
- Please pray that the students who have withdrawn during quarantine will become more involved.
- God willing, I'll be returning to Boston in June to continue working with the CCO part-time.
- Please pray that this position will be finalized.
- Please pray that I will find other part-time work.
- Please pray that I will find suitable housing in Boston.