Long time no post…

1 Dec

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted.  So sorry!  It’s been a crazy year, full of lots of changes, setbacks, celebration, and a roller coaster of emotions.  God is good!

I won’t dabble in trying to catch up on everything, but I will share one story from this week.  At Community Worship on Tuesday night, two students led the evening.  They did a fabulous job!  It was so encouraging to hear how the Lord has challenged one student to think about forgiveness and healing in the midst of a history of hurt.  I give credit to God, because only He could accomplish that transformative work in this student’s life.

Afterwards, I was chatting with a student I had seen around, but hadn’t really had the chance to get to know too well.  She shared a bit of her story, and we related on so many levels.  When she shared about some of the experiences of her first semester in college, I felt like she was telling MY story!  There were so many similarities :-)  We exchanged email info, and hopefully we’ll get together soon.  She’s also considering joining us for our City Lights spring break trip!

Praise God for his good work and the connections he brings with students :-)

What’s been happening lately…

13 Apr

Some of you may be wondering about what has been going on in the ministry of GCCF recently…well, quite a LOT.  I don’t have photographic proof this time around, sorry, but God has been stirring some deep stuff up for students.  I think it all started with Kodi’s talk back in early March about dealing with depression and his call to trust the Lord fully.  I can see that many students took that to heart and are thinking about what it means to truly surrender struggles to the Lord.  And even as Kodi was making his own decision about what to do after college, I was grateful for his trust in the Lord as he agreed to join InterVarsity staff – that was a big step!

Another recent trend in GCCF is conversations about relationships, dating, and sexuality in general.  It’s a popular topic for college students no matter where you are, but it seems to be one of great interest lately.  Over spring break, I had the chance to spend time with several students and we had some really interesting conversations and discussions about dating, what scripture says (and doesn’t say) about relationships, and just how as a community we can encourage each other towards Christ.

In the background of all of this, our shepherd’s team, which is basically a group of core leaders helping disciple other leaders and carry vision for GCCF, has been looking at the issue of sin and how in the world to address sin as Christian leaders.  It’s a tricky thing to navigate, and we’ve been praying and asking for grace and mercy, studying some passages in Romans, and thinking about how to spur people on towards greater faith and reliance on Jesus.  As a result of several weeks talking about sin, the shepherd’s team asked me to give a CW talk on the subject!   While not a popular topic by any means, I was surprised by students response to the words I shared – there was a great amount of humility and conviction, which I am grateful for.  I’m grateful that students see that sin is deeper than just action, but reveals greater heart issues like not fully trusting in the Lord, lack of intimacy and love for Jesus, and selfish pride.

As you can see, a lot of deeper things are happening in GCCF.  Yes, we still have all of our weekly Bible studies making their way through the book of John and our weekly CW gathering.  But other things are happening too.  Prayer, conversations, NEW bible studies about the tough questions brought up at CW, GIGs and spiritual conversations, and discipleship about sin.  A lot of this takes place organically and as God leads, and it has been AMAZING to see how it’s happening.  Sure, some of it is difficult.  Definitely.  But, it’s definitely brought me to be praying whole-heartedly for these students and for this campus.  I hope you’ll join me in that :-)

From Despair to Joy

9 Mar

One of the things that is often said about Grinnell is that it is a “dark place.”  And when people say this, they aren’t talking about the spiritual climate at Grinnell.  They’re generally talking about the mental and emotional experience.  I’ve seen it myself – many students at Grinnell struggle with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and extreme self-critique.  These students work hard and have high expectations, and they are often under a great deal of pressure, some external and some internal.  One of my greatest prayers for Grinnell-ians is to be transformed in all areas of their life, that Jesus would really enter in and break the cycle of depression and hopelessness or self-hatred.  And trust me, it is a work of the Lord to accomplish this transformation!

Last night, a senior named Kodi spoke at Community Worship (CW), which is our weekly fellowship gathering.  Kodi has been involved in GCCF from the very beginning, and he’s sacrificed a lot of time and energy to love his peers.  At the same time, he’s personally struggled quite a bit to battle against the despair, frustration, and hopelessness many Grinnellians face.  He shared a bit of his own story, some of the scripture verses that encouraged him and challenged him, and stood boldly before his friends to exhort them to to turn to Jesus.

This year has definitely been tough.  Last spring, a student death and several painful hate crimes on campus left students reeling at the end of the semester.  In the fall, while God was really blessing GCCF with growth numerically, it started to become apparent to many that there was something imminent coming – the graduation of quite a few seniors that have invested a LOT into the group.  At the same time, personally, I faced a lot of my own doubts and fears – was God continuing to call me to this ministry?  Am I any good at it?  Why are there so many downfalls along the way?

What’s been amazing is to walk alongside both Kodi and other students as WE have daily chosen Jesus instead of despair, fear, or doubt.  Praying with them, encouraging them with scripture, sharing my own struggles with growing weary.

One of the scripture verses that has encouraged me greatly since November is from Isaiah 40, and was also shared last night:

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

In the end, God is victorious.  God is good.  And when we choose Him, there are promises given us.  The Lord gives us strength, and when we choose to put him at the center, we are most definitely on the path to eternity.  So, last night when Kodi challenged students to respond in 3 different ways, I rejoiced alongside these students who are choosing faith and choosing Jesus.

Several students stood to say that they will no longer put their hope in other things (“broken cisterns” – Jeremiah 2), several stood to choose hope and believe God can help us overcome, and several others stood to choose to follow Jesus for the first time!

God is good :-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missional Communities

22 Feb

The long awaited spring update!  We’re off to a good start, but we could definitely use your prayers!   We’ve had a few leaders drop off, which is always a bummer.  Please pray for encouragement and for God to bolster faith.  It seems that often when our Bible study leaders “quit” they tend to disappear, so I also just ask that you pray for them to remain in community and remain in Jesus.

 

This year, we’re inviting people to consider planting missional communities.  Not just Bible studies, but communities of people following Jesus into mission on campus.  Scripture study will definitely be a part of that, but also prayer and mission-oriented risks (like praying with their friends, for example).  If you could please pray for the opportunities that abound for these kinds of communities, and that students would welcome the chance to step outside their comfort zone.  Often, many students don’t feel capable or like they’re the right person.  Yet, Jesus asked ordinary people to follow him and launch his ministry, so why not here, right?  :-)

More updates soon…

 

Pancakes!

6 Dec

This is what it looks like when 8 GCCF students cook pancakes for 100+ students at 2 am during the last week of class!

 

October Letter

30 Oct

 

 

 

Welcome to the class of 2014!
Another academic year has started, and another crop of 400+ first years have arrived and settled into Grinnell.  For the first few weeks, campus was buzzing with activity and excitement.  It’s my favorite time of year because students are so friendly and open to new things.  It makes my job SO much easier!

Grinnell College Christian Fellowship (GCCF) has already had a ton of stuff going on.  Here’s a quick snapshot of what the first 14 days of school looked like for us:

  • 18 student leaders returned for our pre-semester retreat in August.  We have 11 new leaders this year, some leading small group Bible studies, and some leading GIGs.
  • Eight new small groups were launched week, with another one in the works.  One group had 13 students show up the first week!
  • On the first Friday of class, we hosted a game night that was a huge success.  Board games, DDR, and good fellowship brought around 100 students out for a good time.
  • Our small group leaders are meeting new people and inviting folks to join their communities.  One group mingled at the international student welcome reception and got to know students there since their hope is to minister to the large number of international students living on East campus.
  • We launched a new structure to our fellowship – we have a group of senior students helping shepherd small group leaders grouped by geographic location on campus.  I am SO grateful for these gifted students and followers of Jesus.  They truly have a heart for God’s mission at Grinnell.

HOPES FOR THIS YEAR

This year, I am praying and hoping for a number of key things related to the InterVarsity ministry at Grinnell.  I ask that you join me in prayer for these, and please send your encouragement – some of these goals are pretty big stretches for us!

To grow the size and quality of Community Worship. Community Worship (CW for short) is our weekly large group fellowship gathering.  For the past two years, we’ve hovered around a weekly attendance of 30-35 students, and dipped as low as 15.  I would love to have a regular core of 50 students gathering to worship and learn each week.  Also, we’d love for CW to become more a place of challenge and exhortation for students, as well as a place students regularly make decisions to follow Jesus or recommit their lives to him.

For GIGs to spread. A GIG is a Group Investigating God, essentially a simplified Bible study for non-Christians that is catered to their questions about God and Jesus.  GIGS are supposed to be easy to lead and get started, yet for some reason, GCCFers are pretty intimidated by the idea.  However, this year we have 6 students leading GIGs.  I’m hoping we can overcome this fear and GIGs will spread and become commonplace.  They are truly one of the most fun ways to interact with students, and a great way to engage non-Christians.

Reaching new communities. One of the keys to our vision is to see campus renewed, and the only way to be doing that is to be out there, in new places and communities, sharing Jesus with them.  This is one place of great passion among GCCF leaders that I am so grateful for – they love the campus, and they have a sincere desire to reach out to new places.  Specifically, we feel called to continue reaching out to athletes, and make new connections with/in the GLBTQ and African American communities.  Already, God has been opening doors for all three of these!

A PINK GOATEE…
That was the incentive.  For some crazy reason, I somehow managed to convince Kodi ’11 to dye his goatee pink if we recruited 30 people to go to Fall Conference.  It was a lofty goal, especially since we only had seven people signed up a week from the deadline.  But, on the due date, Kodi texted me and said he had 16 more forms in hand.  Combine that with the 10 I had, and we were on our way to a pink goatee and one amazing act of the Lord!

It’s pretty typical for students to sign up for FC10 and back out at the last minute, which happened this year as well.  We ended up showing up to the Y-Camp in Boone with less than 30, but I was still excited.  God was definitely moving in this faithful group of students, and they were pumped to spend a weekend together, even if it was gloomy, gray, and cold outside.

We spent time learning about God’s great plan in Ephesians, how we are reconciled to him and each other through Jesus, and how we can live a life worthy of the calling by allowing Jesus to be central in our lives.  Several students from Grinnell had powerful experiences, some actually quite painful as the Lord was chipping away at different areas of our lives.
…LEADS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD

For one student, Kendall ’11, Fall Conference raised some big questions and challenges.  FC10 marked the anniversary of some particularly painful experiences in her life, and even being there was a huge step of faith for her.  While a difficult weekend, FC10 reminded Kendall of some of the lessons the Lord has taught her over the past 4 years – that God has not abandoned her in times of pain, and that there is a beautiful mystery about knowing the Lord, even when we don’t understand the answer to the hardest question – “why?”

Several weeks ago, Kendall spoke at CW.  Kendall has a difficult time speaking up in class, so this was a huge step of faith for her.  She shared her testimony, one that includes more pain than any 21 year old should ever have to know.  She shared about supportive friends in the midst of suffering, pointing to the story of Job and how much it has spoken to her over the past 3 years.  It is an understatement to say how incredibly proud I am of Kendall.  To be in that room was to experience a profound moment orchestrated by the Lord, and I know that MANY students were challenged and moved by her story, and that there will be fruit to come.

LAST WORD

Thank you for your continued partnership in the ministry at Grinnell. Thanks for your support and prayers – I could not do this without you!  There are a lot of changes this year that have impacted my job and my funding, including the increased role I have as a supervisor for our intern, Jeremy, and the decrease in donor contributions due to  various life circumstances.

In order for ministry to carry on, and for me to serve and encourage students at Grinnell, I continue to fundraise on an annual basis.  This year, I am raising a budget of $48,000 for God’s work at Grinnell.  I currently am in need of $9,300 to meet this goal for the 2010-11 academic year. If you’d like to give a special gift to help meet this need, please use the enclosed envelope.  If you’d like to begin giving on a monthly basis, I encourage you to consider EFT, which is an automated way of giving.  You can set this up by visiting  http://www.intervarsity.org/donate/to/jennifer_weinman/eft  or by using the BRE enclosed and checking the appropriate box requesting more information for automated giving.

As usual, please let me know if you have any questions.  For more stories and pictures – please check out my website, https://jenweinman.wordpress.com, or look for me on facebook.

Blessings in Christ,

Jen

 

PRAYER REQUESTS

  • Praise God for the awesome student testimonies we’ve had at CW this semester – it’s been amazing!  We’ve had 50 people several times already.
  • Continue to pray for our small groups and GIGs on campus – it’s around this time that people start to get tired and overwhelmed.  Pray for renewal in Jesus, and strong faithful communities of support.
  • Pray for our health – Jerod and I have both been sick several times, and it’s just no fun at all.


 

A Pink Goatee

11 Sep

One of our goals for this year was to have 30 Grinnell students attend our annual Fall Conference, which is a weekend retreat for InterVarsity chapters around Iowa held the 3rd week of September.  It was definitely a lofty goal.  With only 3 weeks to invite and recruit, and really just two CW’s, it seemed like a bit of a stretch for us.  But, we committed to it.  30 students.  THIRTY.  That’s like half of our group.  So, in order to help motivate everyone and add a bit of fun to our crazy goal, we came up with an idea – if we got 30 people to register for fall conference, Kodi (a senior student) would dye his goatee bright pink.  And he was totally on board with it.

Jeremy and I got excited about it, but about a week ago, we weren’t really sure if it would happen.  Could we really get 30 students?  That seemed crazy.  We only had 7 registered, and I would have been satisfied with 10 more, far short of our goal.  Jeremy and I both agreed that it seemed like we just didn’t have enough time and things were moving too fast.  But we kept pressing on.

Then, yesterday, on the final registration day, I got a message from Kodi – he had 15 registration forms from students!!!  Crazy.  And over the process of the next 2 hours, I got 7 more also.

Grand total – 29.  But there could be one more.  ONE MORE.  And Kodi lost track of how many he got.

We may have 30.  We may have a pink goatee next week.  God is SO good.  He just blew my expectations out of the water completely!

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