Our staff has done a great job initiating conversations around mission focus. They are joining me in regularly asking, "How can we focus on what is unique and the most fruitful part of our mission?" We welcome students to the Twin Cities, connect them to local communities, invite them to discuss faith, and equip them to step into life after graduation. As we look at our mission, evaluate how we work with ministry partners, and listen to each other in the office, a unique strategy and request of our community emerges.
We request volunteers, churches, and partners to engage with international students in friendship. This is a long-term, relational commitment rather than a one-time, volunteer event. While the latter is good and we value other organizations that call for groups to serve in a single day, we know that this request, this mission, is where we see our best work and best response from students.
One example is how a church partner started a Chinese Bible study. Two Chinese students came into our St. Paul building looking for furniture and ended up meeting the former Executive Director, Jennifer Gerth. She and a few members of the church invited them to attend service one Sunday. When they went, they were both deeply moved—even to tears. One of the church members offered to drive every Sunday to campus to pick them up and then drop them off in the afternoon after the service and a lunch. Richard McClellan and the two students started discussing the Bible together every Sunday and soon became friends. The two students began believing in Jesus and still attend that church to this day. They are now our neighbors and their families our friends. When I talked to the Chinese woman about her story, she couldn't contain tears over her love for Richard and his kindness. He passed away in 2021, but his impact remains strong both in her heart and at the church's Chinese study group which is now being lead by Sai Wang, a former Chinese student intern with us.
Richard's commitment on Sundays may not look the same as others' but this is what we are asking our volunteers to pray about and be involved in. Students need friends and families on this side of the world. It can happen simply through giving a ride twice a day. It can happen by hosting a student for an evening meal. Or it can happen through programs we create to foster friendships like Hiking Club, Friendship Match, and Celebration Meals. Will you join us or invite others in this mission?
Last week, I was so inspired by a Tim Tebow video that I believe I wrote most of my message for our annual Fundraiser next April. That video echoes so much of what I feel in my heart and want to bring deeper into Hospitality's Center's identity.
We are a staff, a board, group of churches, volunteers and business that are believers of Jesus, We believe in the international students. We believe in partnership. We believe Jesus does impact and love others. We believe in the mission. We believe in the power of prayer. We believe in you.
We cannot do anything without God. This mission's success is not to my, our or your credit but we give the praise and glory to God. We pray God moves hearts and does not delay. We pray intentionally in our busy days and weeks. We gather together to pray. We pray for you. We pray for students. We pray for for opportunities to change lives, that will change communities, that will change the world.
Together, we can do more than alone. I cannot change the world and you cannot but perhaps we can. It's not about the credit, it is about the mission. We need committed prayer teams. We need financial supporters. We need volunteers. We need the strengths of other partner ministries. We need resources to love on students.
Students are not projects, but people to be loved. Whether they are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or secular. Whether they are open to Jesus or not. Whether they are from China or any other country. They matter. We don't play God. Rather, we serve God. We will love and connect to them as they need and as we are led.
You have been invited to our mission because you have been part of this ministry for 30 years or are about to enter into the next time that God is preparing for us. I want to thank you, through all the ways you have served seen and unseen, to help change lives. From providing beds to the Indian family who slept on the floor, to being a friend and sharing Jesus with a conversation partner, to preventing homelessness and encouraging steps to a healthy mind heart and more, transformations are happening.
What will happen if we continue to be an organization and community that cries out to God?
What will happen if some of you donate in tremendous ways that open up new opportunities that turn dreams into realities?
What will happen when staff member Holmes now works for 40 hours a week instead of 20?
What will happen when staff are empowered in how God made them to pursue their calling and influence students?
What will happen we really take time to learn about each other and use all the strengths we have for this mission?
My friends, we are entering into such an exciting season and I invite you to consider what you may do and how God is calling you to participate. We are so grateful for you. Thank you.
When I was first asked about my interest in becoming the Hospitality Center’s new Executive Director, I politely said “no” to everyone. I was comfortable being Office Manager and even wondered if the transition period indicated I should look for a new opportunity outside the organization. Even though I was 99% sure of these thoughts, I decided to ask my wife Sarah once more if I should consider the position. She said absolutely. Her immediate and firm reply led to six hours of discussion, prayer, journaling, going through pros and cons, and more questions. I asked her if I was really meant to lead the organization since I didn’t feel the fire and energy I had when Tim hired me as the Program Coordinator back in 2014. She reminded me that I am longer the youthful unmarried man without a home or a daughter. She told me the organization needed who I am today—a quiet and steady presence whose faithfulness to the mission is just as valuable as the passion. Finally, she added that I thrive off of new challenges and need to step out from always being comfortable behind the scenes as the Office Manager.
Craig Groeschel put it this way in a leadership podcast I heard about a month later. His words resonated powerfully with my position at the time:
You are one step away from leading your organization to where it is supposed to go. You are one step away from believing you have what it takes. You are one step away from the vision casting that draws people who would join you. Step into it. Recognize you don’t have to know it all. You don’t have to be perfect. But you have been chosen for this moment. Step into it. You have everything you need to do everything you are called to do.
Remembering his comment again now stirs up my emotions. I didn’t know that I was one step away. But that is what happened. In those six hours with my wife, I watched my heart literally open up to desire the job. I have never experienced this kind of heart movement before in such a short time. Normally, God reveals his will to me specifically after I take action on a decision with confirmations over time in the future. But this was a true appointment before any action. This resulted in an email to the board at 11:30pm that my heart changed. I wanted the job, and shared the reasons why.
God has been showing me he wants to use me to lead in ways I never wanted or pursued. He doesn’t want me to stay comfortable. He appointed me. Now, a month and two weeks later, here I am—hungry, confident, excited, and prayerful. God will indeed give me everything I need to do everything I am called to do.
Today, I ask for you to pray for the mission of the Hospitality Center. Pray that students are loved and impacted by our staff and community during their time here in the Twin Cities.