In case we've never actually met, here's some brief history: back when Brooke and I were dating and engaged, we worked at a college ministry in Auburn. We got married in May 2014, worked for a non-profit that summer, and moved to England in September 2014 to do college ministry there. When we were getting ready to leave that job, I was hired in a full-time teaching position and Brooke was hired to work at a college ministry in Atlanta and then launch a location of that ministry on the campus of Oxford College in Oxford, Georgia.
Throughout all of that time, ever since we were dating, there's been a consistency that we never planned on: we've been dependent on support raising. Our whole time in Auburn we were raising support for England, we continued it while we were there, and Brooke's job at Bread on the campuses of Emory and Oxford have both been support raised. In fact, since Brooke launched and runs Bread Oxford, she's now responsible for raising support for the whole ministry.
So when we were deciding what I should do for income during my practicum and internship semesters this coming year to finish my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, there was one thing we knew for sure: I didn't want to have a support raised salary.
Over a period of months, we talked about various options, prayed, talked some more, consulted friends and people wiser than us, and talked some more. Maybe I could get a part-time job that would offer me enough hours, maybe I could give a bunch of private music lessons. (This is probably a surprise to plenty of you, but my undergraduate degree is actually in Music Education.)
And one thing kept coming back up: what it would look like for us to work together doing college ministry again.
Of course, every time it came up again, one of us would point out the ridiculousness of both being on support raised salaries, and we would move on.
But it wouldn't go away.
Bread Oxford has exceeded our wildest dreams this past year, with students showing up to events and starting to form a community. They've resonated with the vision of Bread that Brooke has carried so well, and they've felt a place where they can feel loved and accepted and safe. Doors have opened that made it evident God was doing something special; Brooke was invited to host events on campus and recognized as a campus minister who checks in with the Dean of Religious Life. Students came on retreats and joined small groups and really started to feel like family.
So eventually, we let it come back up without immediately dismissing it. Bread Oxford could benefit from having a guy on staff. Although I've loved my job the past few years, I miss college ministry. Hopefully, whether you know me personally or not, you can tell that a passionate area of mine is people: I love relational ministry. The timing would work out really well to take place opposite the requirements of my Masters program. Maybe most importantly, I really believe that God does something special in the context of college ministry, that those years are some of the most formative and fun and scary and challenging and important times in a person's life.
Eventually, we had to give in to what we thought God was saying: it would be an incredible missed opportunity for me not to be at Bread next year.
Now, it's hard to describe how excited I was. I already mentioned it, but I love almost everything about college ministry and the style of ministry that Bread does. But pretty close behind my excitement was an undercurrent of anxiety.
What if I can't raise enough support? Who could I even ask, since a lot of our friends were already supporting Brooke? What happens if we get to August and I have no supporters and we can't pay our bills? What if we can't afford food?
If you've ever had money problems, you know the constant stream of thoughts and concerns that come with not being certain about your financial footing.
But over the past few months (lining up pretty well with when we made this decision actually), I've been doing a text group with various people where we go through Scripture. In some of the groups I've picked what we were reading, in some of them I didn't. There's been a mixture of New Testament and Old Testament, Gospels and epistles and prophets and Psalms. And I found myself rediscovering something that I've known for awhile but always seem to forget:
The most common phrase in the Bible is this: 'do not fear.'
It almost always comes from an angel or from God or from Jesus, and it almost always comes right before something is going to happen that doesn't look how the people thought it was going to. (tweet)
In fact, right when Brooke and I started dating, I got the phrase tattooed on my left hand (much to her chagrin.)
And for awhile, it would catch my eye a lot and I remembered it often. But over time, I noticed it less and less, my eyes and mind glancing right over it. This has the convenience of being a decent metaphor: over time, I became more and more likely to glance past what God is so often trying to tell me: do not fear.
So here I am, in the months leading up to my start at Bread, trying not to be terrified by the potential outcomes of support raising. Trying my hardest to trust that God shows up and trying to remember that it's virtually never in the way I expect Him to.
Here's to new adventures.
Here's to hand tattoos.
Here's to perfect love casting out all fear. (tweet)
Ok, I like that ending, but it would be silly of me not to include this info as well.
I'm looking for people to commit to giving on a monthly basis and praying for my role at Bread next year. The way this works is simple: whatever comes in each month is what I get paid.
I believe in relational ministry. I believe that God works through people. I believe in college students and that they will change the world. I believe that community matters, that people need places to feel loved and accepted and safe and home. I believe that when people feel these things, that they come to meet Jesus in ways that are deeply personal & forever impactful. I believe in inspiring hope and in having honest conversations about the things that are hurting us.
If you believe in any of those things too, if you believe in me, if you believe in the ministry you've seen me do in person or the ministry I do online on this website or with CXMH or anywhere else, or if you just stumbled your way onto this page somehow and anything so far has struck a cord with you, I'm asking you to prayerfully consider joining my support team.
You can find out more specifics or see giving options here. Bread runs on monthly support, although one-time gifts are also greatly appreciated. Regardless of your ability to offer financial support, it would also help if you'd be willing to share this on your Facebook, tweet about it, or (gasp!) tell some folks in person who you think would be interested in hearing more.
If you have questions or would like to hear more specifics about the ministry Bread does and how we impact students, please don't hesitate to send me an email at Robert@Breadcoffeehouse.org.