R.A.M.’s mission is to evangelize and revitalize the rural communities of America by sharing the truth and grace of Jesus Christ through His word and compassionate action.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. - John 17:20-21
Our quest for unity as believers does not begin in the halls of debate where human pride and will prevails and divides. No, it begins in an upper room round a table of fellowship and a basin of dirty water; it begins in imitation of the humility and brokenness of God as revealed in the prayers of Jesus, son of man son of God, pleading for the unity of all who would believe in Him as Lord and Christ. If our Lord began in the humility of prayer, why would we do any less?
If the proof of Jesus’ Messiahship to the world is the unity of all His believers, where is the effort and energy being spent to see it happen? It appears that our greatest opportunity for evangelism is through our unity in Christ as His followers. If this is true, where are the Christian leaders who have made this their passionate pursuit? Shouldn’t we be joining hands and bowing knees before the cross of our Redeemer and King and at least beginning with this prayer be unified? Why aren’t our public and private prayers continually echoing our Master’s plea for unity? Before we have another gospel meeting to win the world why don’t we insist on prayer meetings among ourselves begging God to forgive us of our pride and indifference and pleading with Him to make us one in Christ? Do we really believe in the power of prayer? Do we really want the prayer of our Lord and Savior to be answered? Do I love my God and my fellow man that much? Or should I say, that little? The absence of our prayers for His divine intervention betrays our feeble desire for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven regarding unity.
The undeniable example of our Lord reveals that unity is of divine origin. It begins in heaven within the perfect unity of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the source of our inspiration and power to attain the same; both with our God and ourselves. Prayer is the conduit to the divine power of heaven and the will of God. Prayer positions us before the cross and enables us to humbly receive the grace, power and wisdom of God that will bring about the unity we have so far failed to attain:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. – Ephesians 1:16-18
Perhaps by uniting first in the humility of prayer, God will forgive our arrogance and divisiveness and open our eyes to the error of our ways, whether in doctrine, deed or attitude. Who knows what degree of unity is awaiting us if we will prayerfully humble ourselves in expectation of the Spirit’s power to enlighten our eyes and soften our hearts?
We have failed our Father far too long. Our failure has prolonged His anguish and delayed, obstructed, or I fear, even prevented the redemption of our fellow man. There is not another minute to waste. To some, the walls between the “children of God” appear insurmountable. But if the prayer of Jesus is to be answered, it must begin in the humility of our prayers. Who among us that claims to be His disciple will begin to beat the doors of heaven until by His power we are brought to complete unity?
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” -John 17:23
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” -Romans 15:5-6
This is the second time we have shared our home with a RAM student. We do life by doing the next right thing. Housing a RAM student just seemed like the next right thing. There was no real discussion. We just did it. This time our RAM student stayed on as an intern for 4th and College for two additional months. The time flew by. Summer in Oklahoma is a busy time. During RAM, our students spent most of their time working in other surrounding communities with other RAM students which only further strengthens the bond they have in Christ and with one another.
We are empty-nesters living in a small house that gets warmer than most in the summer. Why do we do it? As parents of three grown children, we would want someone else to do the same thing for our children in a similar situation. Yes we were strangers, but we no longer are. Basically all they need is a place to sleep and a place to clean up after a hard day. Anyone with a spare room has exactly what is needed. You need to be understanding and caring; and respect their privacy. You need to be willing to allow them to be who they are and flexible and tolerant enough to accept some inconveniences. They are college students. They probably will not eat or sleep at normal times. But the blessings far outweigh the inconveniences.
RAM students bring life and joy back to struggling congregations. Each one of them has a special gift to share and their own reasons for participating in RAM. Stop by and just ask them, they are here for church members as much as they are for the community. Take them for a meal and spend some time with them and you will catch a glimpse of that joy and probably want just a little bit more. In one such visit this year one of the girls said that she came from a small town church and all she sees there is apathy, but she did not see it here. The difference here is a caring circle of people who take time to know the students while they are here; share in their victories and share in their struggles. They help us so much more than we could ever offer them.
Yes as a house parent you might have to deal with normal emotional troubles that come along. It seems like when RAM students arrive and begin touching lives, so does Satan. There will be car problems, illnesses and deaths; rain storms, tornadoes and floods and all sorts of other complications to the plans we have made in advance for the RAM students to help with. So be prepared to be flexible because things will not go as planned. Bathe everything you do in prayer and strive to do the next right thing.
This year, during the actual RAM month we barely saw Janelle, she was busy and gone doing something that entire month. She sat at our dinner table once when she arrived and not again until after RAM had ended. However, we did from time to time meet up with various RAM students for a meal wherever they were working. This time we were committed to meet and spend time with as many RAM students, in various towns, as possible because we believe in the mission of Rural America Ministries. We were lucky enough along the way to connect with other RAM host families who had similar stories of being blessed by their presence. It was nice to know there are others who share our goals for this ministry. Due to the busy summer season, however, we were not completely successful with this plan. We will visit the Seymour congregation on our way to Abilene next month. We will commit to the same challenge next summer. We regret that we were unable to meet the two female RAM students at Seymour. We are afraid that being friends on Facebook is not the same as meeting them in person.
So when you feel that little tug on your heart when asked to help with housing a RAM student, step over those fears and see the blessings that are ahead. We end this summer, looking forward to the next RAM adventure in Southwest, Oklahoma.
I vividly remember standing in the Lubbock Christian University student union building with Jim, quickly scribbling notes on a flyer he gave me before running to class because it was already October and I could not afford to be late anymore. When I got back to my dorm room later that afternoon I pinned my Rural America Ministries flyer, with the nearly illegible notes and all, on the cork board next to my desk so I would see it every day and remember to pray about the adventure that I would soon embark on. I heard about RAM my freshman year but had already committed to an internship that summer. However, when sophomore year rolled around, I knew that RAM was something not only I wanted to commit to, but something I truly felt God had been calling me to and preparing my heart for. Halfway through the spring semester I started to experience what I can only describe as a, “calm before the storm,” type of feeling. It was completely unsettling and exciting all at the same time; I knew that whatever it was that I would be encountering this summer would be important because of the way the Holy Spirit was speaking to me during that time of prayer and preparation. Shortly after those feelings began, I found out that I would be spending my thirty day mission in Seymour, Texas.
Some would say that I am a “big city girl”, and having been born and raised in El Paso, Texas, I would have to agree. When I first came to college, Lubbock was a small town to me, and I was told that Seymour was much, much, MUCH smaller than Lubbock. That in itself was a little unsettling, but I was excited for a new experience. When I thought about going to Seymour, I was not really expecting to see more (what a fun pun, am I right?) of anything. Little did I know that throughout my time in that special place, God would continually give me glimpses of how He saw that place and show me more than I could have ever imagined. Throughout our mission, we started every morning with a debrief time where we would study God’s word and pray together. The first thing we did in those debrief times was reflect over the question, “How did you see God yesterday?” All of those hours of studying, praying, and discussion helped me grow in my faith so much; it is incredible how quickly we were able to see God’s hands moving in different situations and people’s lives when we took the time to be still, tune in for God’s voice, and reflect over that question. That question is something I try to ask myself every day now; life can get tough, and in the difficult times, as well as days that seem slow and mundane, it can be difficult to see God working. Even in the good times, we often forget about what precious blessings those happy moments are from Him.
Whenever I have told people about my time with RAM, many have asked me questions that all amount to, “How did you see God in Seymour?” and to be honest, that is my favorite question to answer. When answering that question I get to open the box in my mind that is full of warm smiling faces, sunsets over windmills, children’s laughter, the melodies and harmonies from spontaneous worship, the smell of home cooked meals, and the stories from God’s children; the people who stole my heart. How did I see God in Seymour? It would be easier for me to tell you how I did not see God in Seymour. I saw God in the way our congregation immediately took us under their wing; welcoming us and claiming us as their own from very early on. I saw Him in the conversations I had with widows while we did chores for them around their houses, or sat on the floor and listened to them share their life stories with us. I saw Him when I sat in my host family’s backyard and stared at the thousands of stars that lit up the night sky. I saw Him in the people that we met while canvasing in different parts of the town. I saw Him in their stories; how quickly some people dumped the load they had carried on their shoulders for far too long, not knowing or understanding that God would willingly take that weight from them. I saw Him when I sat in church with my sweet elderly ladies; when one would grab my hand and hold onto it just to feel close to me. I saw Him in the tears that poured down the faces of teenagers who shared the pains in their hearts. I saw Him while riding in a golf cart around a church member’s ranch, looking at the cattle and listening to the life lessons they had to offer. I saw Him in the relationships I made with my teammates and in the tears we shed when it was time for us to say goodbye. When I took the time to ask myself, “How did you see God today?” He was always faithful to open my eyes and show me how He walked and talked with me all day long.
In John 1:46 Nathaniel asks, “’Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ and Philip replies, ‘Come and see.” Going into RAM, I remember sitting atop Elk Mountain alongside the other eleven RAM students while Jim read this passage with the biggest grin on his face. He told us that when we came down from that mountain we would be going into our own versions of Nazareth. He was right, not many people would have thought much could come out of the tiny little towns that became our homes for those 30 days, but God showed us otherwise. When I left Seymour, my own Nazareth, I left with more incredible memories than I could have imagined I would when I went into the mission. I left Nazareth with a restored spirit, a strengthened faith, a new outlook on the extreme need for Christ in rural communities, a deeper understanding of ministry, a closer relationship with God, and a place to call home. I left Seymour with a new family. I have been lucky enough to return to Seymour a few times this summer, and even go on a mission trip with the Seymour youth group. For me, the mission did not stop at the end of the thirty days, and I praise God for the opportunities I have had to continue serving and building relationships with the people in that place.
Right now, I am missing Nazareth, the place and all of the people; I truly hope and pray that God will continue to use me for His special purposes there. However, as I prepare to start my junior year at LCU, I look forward to seeing friends and classmates that I have not seen over the summer. I look forward to catching up and talking about our summers and the things we are excited for this year. I am excited for the new adventures God will take me on, and the doors He will open. However, at the moment I am very excited to tell people where I spent a significant portion of my summer. I am excited to see their confused faces and give them an answer to, “Why in the world did you spend your summer in Seymour?” I am excited for the opportunities I will have to let a grin stretch across my face while beckoning others to, “come and see.”