When so many things seemed to be shutting down in the world this spring, God was starting a new thing at Illinois Wesleyan University and calling partners Ryan and Maggie Jennings to pioneer it. Though this meant even more transitions in an already bittersweet season, it also meant looking ahead expectantly for what God had begun on this campus.
Check out this update from Ryan, Campus Director for the new Campus Outreach at Illinois Wesleyan University. As the school year gets started and COVID continues to bring challenges, we hope you’ll read this and be encouraged to pray for Ryan, Maggie, and the students at IWU, celebrate glimpses of the work God is already doing there and consider how God is inviting you to join in His global mission.
–Whitney Reed, Missions Mobilizer
A letter from Ryan Jennings:
A lot has changed since March for Maggie and me, and I’m sure for you all as well. I was driving a van full of students back from our annual spring break trip on March 11th when students began receiving emails about the transition from face to face to virtual learning. Right before this trip, I had been asked to take on the Campus Director position at Illinois Wesleyan University, which meant Maggie and I would be leaving what we knew at Illinois State University to pioneer this new campus and start a new adventure. Our emotions were a mixed bag, to say the least. We were so grateful for the opportunity and excited to bring the gospel to a group of people that seemingly doesn’t care too much about the Christian message. (Too many peoples surprise Illinois Wesleyan isn’t a “Christian school”, it dropped its affiliation with the Wesleyan tradition a long time ago). We were also sad to leave the relationships we had built as well as transition our personal discipleship with students to other staff members. Over this summer we have spent time meeting with students over zoom and phone calls. We had to transition from our Summer Mountain Project, where students typically go for 2 months of the summer to be trained in evangelism, reading the Bible, leadership and much more to a virtual project. We actually had about 120 students participate this summer in our virtual project four nights a week for about two hours each night, which was really encouraging and was a testament to God’s sovereignty in this whole situation.
Fast forward to August 17th. Maggie and I have been going to campus the last couple of days as students are returning back to school. The avenues to meeting people have been a little complicated, but we are already starting to feel optimistic about this year! We are realizing that through this pandemic and the shut down of most in-person activities, students are dying to interact. There aren’t tons of events going on around the campus, so asking people to come over for dinner or hang out seems to be less awkward than it normally is. Already, we have a few students who are invested in Campus Outreach and are excited to meet people and start spiritual conversations. While at this point I don’t have any super specific stories, I can tell you that we are very hopeful and excited about this semester. Although it will look a lot different, we have already met a lot of students, and are hoping that we can begin to build lasting relationships with these young men and women in order that we can share the good news of Jesus Christ with them! While we are new to this pandemic, the campus director role, and pioneering a new campus without any other staff, we are trusting that there are people on this campus that will come to know Christ. We are reminded of Jesus saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” We are going to faithfully go to the campus and pray that God would raise up more and more laborers on the college campus.
CBC, we are so encouraged and thankful for your generosity and prayers! We hope to see you guys soon face to face and share stories of how God was faithful through these times. Throughout the summer, I have spent a lot of time in the book of James, and one thing he makes clear is that we will face trials. James 1:2- 4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” These last few months have felt like trials at various times for college ministry. But, we have been able to hope in the promise that these trials aren’t meaningless. God is still at work and is producing steadfastness in us. I hope you guys can be encouraged from that as well! We love and miss you guys!