STORM UPDATE FROM THE WESLEY

A little before 2am, Thursday, April 25th, I awoke to our power shutting off, and a raging storm outside our home. Gathering up flashlights, I checked my phone for the time and noticed missed Emergency Alerts warning of a tornado in my area until 2:15am. One room in our home is adorned in large bay windows stretching across the wall facing our backyard. As lightning flashed I could see the trees shaking violently, and the chaos of rain beating down. It wasn’t until 5am we were alerted of the true state of emergency. In the dark of the morning, I drove to The Wesley Foundation, having to maneuver around downed trees and power lines. Debris filled the streets, especially once I approached campus. The Wesley building, however, was untouched. I stood for a moment there in the dark, listening to sirens and the sound of water splashing off tires as they drove by. For a moment, all was dark and calm and quiet. After an hour of finding my way on streets cleared of trees and debris, I arrived at a home where three students of the Wesley laid, on couches and air mattresses, visibly shaken and exhausted. I listened to them tell me how they had woken to their roof being ripped off their home, one waking just to see a large limb pierce her ceiling, jutting right over the head of her bed. The three scrambled to find their hiding cat, and ventured into the streets which were now rivers of trees to be brought to a safe home. We cried and prayed and finally, learned soon of fatalities mere blocks away from their home. Still, it wasn’t until daybreak any of us knew what we were dealing with.  

Driving - or attempting to drive - through Ruston that morning I continually exclaimed, “Oh my gosh!” Home after home, now I know a whopping 1,300 homes at least, were utterly destroyed by winds and trees. Buildings and businesses simply gone, a pile of twisted metal and glass. Brick walls torn down as though they had just melted away. Houses blown off their foundations. Mid-morning, after hours of damage intake, overwhelming scenes of destruction and loss, I stood in a street of trees, the noise of people and chainsaws and sirens still all around, but all went still again it seemed.

Mightier than the thunders of many waters,

   mightier than the waves of the sea,

   the Lord on high is mighty!

[Psalm 93:4]

It makes little sense to me that these verses came to mind. It makes little sense when staring at the force which twisted trees out of their rooted ground, which flung entire buildings backwards, and which stripped brick wall bare, how the Lord is mighty--mightier. Yet that chorus rang through my mind all day.

I saw the Lord’s might that Thursday, not solely in the wielding of winds, thunder and lightning. Not only in his ordering them to cease and to go no further, to do no further damage than was made. I saw the Lord’s might not even in non-literal comparison, the hopeful and even faithful declaration of knowledge that He is mightier still than this tornado. I saw the Lord’s might in drones of people, mostly Christians, responding to their neighbors grief and needs. I saw in no small measure that the people of God are a force to be reckoned with, and the church, though at times idle and silent and still, still has a lot of fight and life left in her. Thousands of ordinary Christians took the lead in establishing teams to aid in the recovery efforts of homes, business, and campus. Thousands of Christians put aside differences of denominations, political opinions, race, gender, and the like. They stood hand in hand in the yard of a neighbor-- mostly neighbors they had never met or known-- and prayed. They gave up their resources to ensure others didn’t go without. Food business and groups took to the streets with meals for first responders. By lunch-time Thursday more alumni and out of town Christians asked how to help than I had places or needs to yet put them. Hundreds came to a volunteer meeting at a local church, city officials included. City officials looked to the church, because the church did not wait for permission to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Miles of tree-covered streets were cleared in a matter of hours. Trees as big around as 4-5 feet were removed from homes with small chain saws and a multitude of able-bodied friends. Homes were opened up to welcome the refugee. Without sermon or charge, the Church embodied the Church. We became to ourselves the sermon, the witness, the proof that, though illogical as it seems, “Mightier...is the Lord.”

By Friday, the three students whose home was destroyed were moved into a new home. Their cat was sleeping in tempered sunlight on the foot of one of their beds. Their fridge and pantry was full of gifted food. Paintings were going up on the wall. By Friday evening, staff and students were in the midst of the damaged, electricity-less LA Tech apartments serving burgers and providing a space of laughter, joy, and feeding hungry bellies. Saturday thousands gathered to serve once again.

The Lord has shaped the Body of believers at Wesley to preach with their lives the sermon they displayed this past week. The sermon which proclaims to the desperate, needy and hopeless, “Mightier is the Lord.” Dozens of ordinary students, gathered around the Table on Friday morning; they took the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Together we prayed the Lord would make us be for the world the Church. I smiled that morning knowing we already are being for the world the Church. And by living it out we are becoming it, more and more.

Thank each of you for your care, prayers, and concern for our Wesley community last week. We are deeply thankful and deeply loved.


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Update by Kaiti Lammert, Associate Director of The Wesley Foundation on May 1st, 2019

An Alumni’s Reflection

As a student at the Wesley Foundation, one of the hardest things I had to do every year was say goodbye to dear friends and mentors as they prepared to move on. It began as I realized that I was experiencing their “lasts.” The last Retreat, the last Well, the last Engage Group… Inevitably, these “lasts” would run out and time was up. All I could do was join the rest of community as we came together in tears and embraces just as the Ephesians did when Paul gave them his final words before departing (Acts 20:37). Though they were young, these dear friends had been used by God in Pauline ways for His work in the Wesley Foundation. They taught me His Word by both speech and action, were there in my brightest days and darkest nights, and showed me, whether intentionally or not, how the kingdom of Heaven could be found in friendship. Our lives had been permanently woven together in ways that truly seemed sacramental. To watch them leave left me with a sense of loss that lingers to this day.

        Watching people move on from the Wesley was always accompanied by the thought of my own departure. I knew that I would leave one day, but I did my best to ignore those thoughts. I did not want to think about leaving the community where I had seen the Spirit moving so tangibly and where I had found such amazing Christian friends. The Wesley was a place where Christianity was alive in ways that I didn’t know were possible until I found myself caught up in God’s work there. It was there that I learned about Jesus and his character, discovered my love for the church, and experienced God’s calling into a life of ministry. More than that, I knew that I was just a continuation of something God had been doing at Louisiana Tech University long before I got there. The Wesley’s story spans multiple decades and generations of disciples. My own experience there was just one small piece of the mosaic of a beautiful, fruitful ministry. How could I be OK knowing that I would leave that ministry and head out on a mission to a world that has always been unkind to those who would follow The Way?

        Despite my fears of the future and my desire to stay in Ruston, my time to leave the Wesley came. Thankfully, I was not going to be moving to a new place entirely alone. My girlfriend and now fiancée, Emily, a fellow student and intern at Wesley, had already moved to North Carolina, where we would be attending seminary together. This brought me great comfort and joy and I became hopeful that maybe leaving would not be so bad after all. As I navigated my way through my final hangouts, I did my best to stay strong and offer as many “We’ll see each other again soon”s as I could. Suddenly, it was all over, and I was driving a U-Haul to North Carolina with no one but my cat, Chester, to accompany me. As the interstate miles passed, I became more and more aware of yet another sense of loss taking shape within my soul. However, this time, it felt more final.

        In the months since I left and settled into life away from my home community, a few thoughts have been pressing against my soul. First, I have become convinced that seminary is one of the most difficult places in the world to maintain any semblance of Christian worship. In an environment where the living story of God’s work is treated academically, answers such as “Because Jesus said so” and “I am not sure, but I have faith in God” have become increasingly unacceptable. Once caught up in the never-ending quest to answer questions no one is asking, it is easy to forget how to stand in awe of God, or even how to be in love with Him. When I sit through lectures that seem intent on stifling all manifestations of the Spirit, I simply cannot help but remember our Bible studies or Wesley staff meetings where we would discuss Scripture or a number of books and articles we were given to read. Do not get me wrong; I love studying the Bible and the writings of Saints throughout the history of the Church. I just believe that Christian study is perhaps most fruitful when it is done within the love and care of the Christian community whose goal is first and foremost to bring glory to God’s name. The Wesley taught me to study in that way; through faith and out of love and desire to know more of God’s character.

Secondly, I think true friendships may be one of the rarest treasures to be found in the world. I mean real, brave friendships that focus on calling each other deeper into relationship with Christ; friendships based on Christ-like love and honest confession and repentance. These are friendships that are moved and formed by something much deeper than human attraction. They are reflections of the Heavenly love Jesus teaches us through the Spirit. They are not rare in the sense that they are not around. They are rare in the sense that not many people seem very interested in having them. These kinds of friendships were gifted to me at Wesley, though I did not truly understand what I had until I moved away and missed them.

It has been easy for me to fall into despair over all of this. However, God rarely seems to think of despair as helpful. It has been in these dark times that God has come to me with great comfort and strength, using the very memories that were the source of my tears to give me strength. The formation I received at Wesley in reading and interpreting Scripture has shaped the way I write and read here at Divinity School. Though I find myself challenged at times, I think back to the countless bible studies and worship services I experienced and rediscover a deep Well of safety and trust in Jesus’ teachings. Because of this, I feel able to see and trust in God’s presence in Divinity School. Though Christian companionship has been hard to come by, I remember a time where I had no idea what true community looked like. I needed Wesley students and interns to step into my life in a radical way and show me by example. I realize now that the time I have spent in community at Wesley has equipped me to boldly stand out in the world and invite people into those same relationships regardless of whether I fear rejection or not.

        My time at Wesley gave me the most intentional and serious Christian formation I could have asked for. However, it was given with the intention that I would leave and move on. God has called us all to shine as lights in a dark and lonely world. That is easy to understand when you are surrounded by other lights. When there are just a few of you, however, the darkness seems deeper and more pressing. Burn anyway, Jesus says. Burn so that all may be lit. I have learned these past few months that the experience of a Christian community is a gift, not a right. The Wesley was gifted to me and so many other believers so that we might learn how to burn before being sent out to those who have no light.

If you are still at home in your Christian community, cherish every moment of it for as long as you can.

If you have been sent out and often feel you burn alone, know that others are with you.

And if you are a student at Louisiana Tech University who would like to know that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…The Well is Tuesdays at 7 and Laid Back Lunch is Thursdays from 11-2.


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Trevor Blair

Trevor Blair is an aspiring preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He currently attends Duke Theological Seminary where he is earning his Masters of Divinity. Trevor enjoy The Office, hiking, and his new fiancé, Emily Hamil. At his time at Wesley, Trevor was a zealous and faithful member of the community, leadership teams, and mission teams.

Racism as the Church's Problem Pt. 2

Racism as the Church's Problem Pt. 2

I share all of this because I want you to know what it’s like for me to be a part of the Body of Christ, to go to church and to be in relationship with the Christians around me at any given moment. There are entire generations of Christians who have grown up and died and before they died raised up other generations not clothed in Christ or the new self but in racist systems and mindsets, in the low thoughts and earthly passions of the old self. When you go to church on Sunday (and you should; if I can, there’s no good reason why you can’t), I want you to take note of your experience compared to mine. I want you to remember what I suffer; I think this is a faithful request, for before Paul called us to remember his chains, Christ Himself called us to remember the suffering He endured first and endured for us.

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Racism as the Church's Problem

Racism as the Church's Problem

If you call yourself a Christian, racism is your problem. Racism is your problem because I call myself a Christian, and it’s my problem, and you and I and all Christians are members of the same Body, and Paul tells you in Hebrews to remember those who are mistreated, since you are also in the Body (13:3). Racism is your problem because people who also count themselves as members of this Body and call themselves Christians practice racism right now, every day, long after racism has been declared “dead” by the world and longer after the Greek and Jew, slave and free have been declared one in Christ by Christ. Racism is your problem because racism boldly, blatantly, and shamelessly rejects everything to which we’re called as Christians. Racism is your problem because it flies in the face of the new self for the sake of the fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, and lies of the old self.  Racism is your problem because parts of our Body think it isn’t their problem, and those Christians need a faithful witness.

Racism is your problem because you are part of Christ’s Body, and Christ has witnessed that this is His problem. Its Christ’s problem when He asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water and she responds, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” for Jews did not share things in common with Samaritans--yet Jesus was making all things new, all things shared and in common among those who believe in Him (John 4). Racism is Christ’s problem when He tells us to do not as the Hebrews do, who see a stranger naked and beaten and abandoned and pass him by, but as the Samaritan man does, who sees this stranger, naked and beaten and abandoned, and has mercy on him (Luke 10). Racism is a Christian problem because Christians are failing in the world and in the Church to acknowledge that racism is a problem and because Christians are failing in the world and in the Church to stop being the problem.

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Advent: A Season of In Between

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

   for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.

He has raised up a mighty savior for us

   in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

    that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,

   and has remembered his holy covenant,

the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,

   to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,

might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness

   before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his people

   by the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God,

   the dawn from on high will break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:68-79 NRSV


We are a people caught in the middle--in the middle of the fulfilled yet unfinished story of God. We have been given the promise and hope that Christ will return, but we don’t know when. We are caught between the remembrance of the birth of Christ and the anticipation of Christ’s return. We are caught between the being and the becoming; the present and the not yet.

Every year this limbo and in betweenness seems to weigh more. Our eyes have been opened more to the tragedies sin and death have caused in our world. When we see the events going on in the world--refugees being turned away, war being waged on women’s bodies, children being separated from their families, people unable to communicate with the “other side”, the rich and powerful being able to do what they want with no consequence--and Christians seemingly turning a blind eye to all of it. Yes, this limbo and heaviness and waiting is hard; but it has also caused me to pause and ask, “What are we to do in this in between and waiting time?”

The Canticle of Zechariah was heralded after Zechariah had been silenced by an angel for over nine months. Many have proposed Zechariah was bursting at the seams to speak; he was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, and in a frenzy blurted out this hymn about the Christ and his own son, John.

But, I would like the pose the idea that Zechariah spent those 9 months listening intently to the Lord and the people around him. His silence caused him to slow down and pause. In those 9 months, he was given an awareness of the things to come and a faith bold enough to proclaim the Truth of Christ. While he was waiting for the advent of his son, Zechariah was forced to pay attention to the world around him. The advent—the waiting— the world found themselves in; the advent we still find ourselves in today.

This canticle hopeful, but it’s hopefullness did not come to be without patience and silence. Zechariah was unable to see and know yet the goodness in the arrival of Jesus the Christ. Zechariah was a man caught in the middle. Christ hadn’t been born, but Zechariah knows that he will be the one that would rescue us from the hands of our enemies. He can see the coming glory, while not attaining it yet.

The canticle doesn’t begin as we might think a song from a father about the birth of his own son would sound. Zechariah’s heart was overwhelmed with the revelation that the God of Israel is faithful and true, because he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them and sent us a Savior just as he had promised. Most of this song is a declaration of Christ; it is not until about halfway through that Zechariah speaks of his own son.

Verse 76 reads And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.”
These are some profound statements about John’s life. He is just born and is being given his vocation. He is called a prophet of the Most High; he is going to prepare the way for the Lord; he will tell people the story of salvation and forgiveness.

What if I said that when we are baptized into the family of God that this is our vocation as well? Would that change how you read these verses? Would you feel empowered? Or be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the call?

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.”

It is true that this is addressed to us in the here and now. This is the tension that we live in every day--the balancing act of remembering Christ’s birth, heralding his coming, hoping in his return! These words are for us, in this waiting and anticipation, we are called to tell other people of the Good News that the Lord has provided a Son. He has come and made a way for our salvation through the forgiveness of our sins. And he will come again.

No matter the hardship of the waiting, the pangs of labor, the groans of creation; no matter how heavy your heart is this Advent season, hold fast to the truth, “In the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  

Amen.

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Rev. Emily Hamil

Emily is an alumni of The Wesley Foundation at Louisiana Tech University. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Divinity at Duke Divinity School. Emily is impassioned for the word of God and His children. She is bold in her vocation— to be a prophetic voice for the silenced, overlooked, oppressed, and unseen…the same humble masses the Lord also defends, corrals, and shepherds into his flock.



Emma's Wesley Testimony

Emma's Wesley Testimony

I have been at the Wesley Foundation for almost six years. When I first started coming to Louisiana Tech I was someone who was in loneliness wanting a way to get out. Each day I would search for someone to be friends with but I would never have the courage to interact with them. One day after English class a girl, named Ki, invited me to The Wesley’s weekly lunch. And because of her, I was able to meet other people from The Wesley.

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