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What’s in Front of Me

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. In fact, last time I posted was early in the spring semester, which turned out to be my busiest semester since starting at Virginia Tech. Thanks to God and God alone, I not only survived the semester with my sanity intact (well, mostly…) but it was academically my best semester yet. Actually, it was a really good semester across the board, busy as it was. I also got an internship in the DC area over the summer, building a database system for a residential builder to improve their workflow and the flow of data—from subcontractor bids, to analysis of the bids, to award documents, to a historical cost database, and finally to budgets for new jobs. I really enjoyed the job, and they really appreciated my work. So it was a great experience for all of us. And now I’m back in Blacksburg, and classes have started up again—and it’s the beginning of my senior year.

It’s hard to believe how fast my time has flown here, and how far I’ve come in three short years. Now for fourth and goal. (Excuse the analogy—after all, it’s football season again. (Go Hokies!) Anyways…) Before I know it, my last year as a Virginia Tech student will be done. And then…then what?

That’s actually what I’ve come back to my blog to write about. Because notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say my last year at Virginia Tech.

If you’ve followed my blog much, you’ll know I’ve shared a lot about my church family here, New Life Christian Fellowship. I’ve shared about how I and a group of NLCF-ers have been building relationships with international students, helping them adjust to America and find a place here, and showing them the love of God. And I’ve shared about how God’s brought me from being a lost and lonely international student, to finding my place at Virginia Tech, and finding a family I love in NLCF.

So when, last fall, I and maybe a dozen other student leaders were invited to an interest meeting about going on staff with NLCF, it got me thinking. Thinking about how, of all the things that fill my schedule, the stuff I do with NLCF is the stuff I most want to be spending my time doing (and I get really frustrated with everything else for taking time away from that.) Thinking about how the stuff I and my Engage Group (that group I mentioned) are doing for international students is making such a difference in their lives, and how I’ve seen God moving in their lives through their interactions with us. Thinking about how my Engage Group, the NLCF staff, and so many others at NLCF have become my family, and how, because of them, Blacksburg has become home.

The point I’m getting to is this: after almost a year of thinking, talking, and praying, and listening to God and to other people, I’ve decided to apply to go on staff at NLCF.

The funny thing is that this is both really surprising and not at all. Not surprising because ministry of some sort has always been the direction I’ve been heading. Before I decided, almost four years ago, to get a degree in engineering, I already wanted to go into ministry. And engineering was only ever going to be a channel for that. But what blows my mind is the fact that I’m choosing to stay in Blacksburg to do it. The plan was always to go overseas somewhere—whether back to where I grew up, or elsewhere. Staying in the States was never the plan. But then, God’s never been too concerned with making sure all our petty little plans work out. Not that he doesn’t want us to be happy, or doesn’t have our best interests in mind. He absolutely has our best interests in mind. He knows better than we do how our gifts and passions can be used, and he has something so much bigger and better in mind than anything any one of us can dream up. A greater plan that we get to be a part of. An epic story that we get to play a role in. And over the past year, I’m starting to see where the next chapter is set for me.

So over the course of this year I’ll be going through the application process—some paperwork, a couple of (very personal) interviews, getting references. If I’m accepted, I’ll go to new staff training in June, and after that will start raising support. (Because this is a church for broke college students, all the staff raise support to be here.) When I reach 100% support, I’ll be officially released to come back to Blacksburg and start serving here full time.

It’s impossible to anticipate everything I’d be doing on staff. It involves wearing a lot of hats. But it will probably include the things I’ve been doing and enjoy doing—discipling, running sound for services and serving in other technical ways, and working with international students. Right now, we are just one of several Engage Groups at NLCF (10 this year.) Several of us in the group see what we’re doing as a really important part of NLCF (not that the other Engage Groups aren’t important) with the potential to expand beyond just an Engage Group and become a more full-fledged ministry of NLCF to the international community at Virginia Tech. On staff, I would be in a position to spearhead this ministry.

When I shared this with my Engage Group, one of them asked how long I planned to be on staff. My co-leader took the words right out of my mouth: “Until God calls him somewhere else.” I could definitely get comfortable here, and stay for many years to come. But I could just as easily start getting restless after a couple years. My biggest hangup the whole time I was weighing this decision was my desire to go overseas. Like I said, my plan had always been to go overseas again. A piece of my heart is still on the other side of the globe, and it was really, really hard to give that up. In the end, I had to tell myself that I wasn’t. I still have plenty of time (I think) to go back someday. And someday, maybe I will.

That said, the really cool thing is that I can have an impact on the nations from right here in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech draws young people from all over the world. Dozens of countries are represented at this university. From here, I can reach out to these people from across the globe. And when their time here is done, and they go back to each of their countries, they in turn can reach people there. So even if I stay here, I can still live out that calling to the nations. That’s a really cool thought.

Two short years ago, I never would have guessed I would be making this decision. In fact, if you had told me that I would still be living in Blacksburg after I graduate, I might have just broken down crying. Or flat-out not believed you. And yet here I am. It says a lot about this church, and my Engage Group, who are my family. I thank God so much for them. And most of all, it is a testament to God and his faithfulness.

I’ve quoted it before on this blog, but Third Day’s “Mountain of God” is such a great song, and has become somewhat of a theme song for me (among a few others.) The bridge gets me every time, and comes back to me now:

Sometimes I think of where it is I’ve come from
And the things I’ve left behind
But of all I’ve had, and what I’ve possessed, nothing can quite compare
With what’s in front of me