School's Out Forever! (until I decide to go back)
Last Sunday, I boarded the Southwest School Bus for the last time as an Reformed Theological Seminary - Orlando hybrid student. After 4.5 years, I've made my last visit to campus, which means I'm just weeks from finishing my course work to earn my Master of Divinity (pretty cool sounding, huh?). Our program requires us to go to Orlando a week in January and a week in July every year. For years, I've been calling hybrid week (what our week at school is called) summer camp because that's what it feels like; Incredible teaching, making and catching up with friends, we come from all around the world. I was taking a course called Gospel and Race exploring the history of abhorrent racial discrimination in the church, and opportunities for improvement. I also had to finish my Westminster Shorter Catechism exit exam to complete all the requirements for graduation.
Since I only had class from 6-9p everyday, I had other opportunities to do work on my other last class (Hebrews-Revelation) as well as visit with people. Every morning we start with a 20 minute chapel service, with some of the professors preaching. This week's subject was Romans 5:1-5, and the ligaments which hold faith together.
Since I've known I am coming close to a time of change, I feel like I'm on a Farewell Tour. I'm getting all kinds of nostalgic. One of those things I get nostalgic about is my time at Hebron, and the leadership I've seen sent from her. I count about 10 vocational ministry workers produced in the last 30 years. So, I thought I should check in with one of those who lives within driving distance of school. I drove up to Jacksonville, to visit Mike McDonald at Grace Anglican Church. Mike and I shared stories and talked church strategy as if we had been friends who have been getting together for years. Meeting with Mike was confirmation of how God has used Hebron's student ministry to grow his kingdom.
A few months ago I met Case Thorp at a Presbytery of the Alleghenies meeting. Case is an Assoc. Pastor at First Presbyterian Orlando, and the Moderator of the EPC General Assembly. He told me to give him a call when I was in town, so I did (don't say it unless you mean it). We met at Starbucks and talked about my plans, as well as his vision to grow the church in the Bahamas to the point where we need to form a Bahamian Presbytery. I love that there is vision to continue to expand the church through planting churches. Case also got me a meeting with the Director of World Outreach at the Offices of the General Assembly of the EPC. I got to share with some folks our vision and goals for our time on Abaco. I've never been much of a networker, but I'm learning to love connecting people, sharing stories, and looking to encourage others in their faith.
It also happened that my brother and his family were at Disney World that week, so I was able to
spend a few hours with him, catching up, and then joined the family for lunner at the Polynesian before heading back for class. Disney and RTS-O are on opposite corners of Orlando, which means I had to go through a whole roll of quarters on those obnoxious toll roads at rush-hour.
The highlight of every hybrid week is the Friday night gathering after class. A bunch of students get together with some professors, and hang out talking about class, home, the future, and craft beer. At some point, someone will call all of those who are making their last visit to campus together and pray over them and their future ministries. I get excited about the future of the church because I've spent time with some of her leaders. We have a high calling, but we have been well prepared.
One of the greatest blessings of my time at RTS-O has been my hosts. I've been to campus 10 times for a variety of classes. I've never had to pay for a room. My first two trips, I stayed with a family friend who lived 4 miles from campus. They then moved away, and I was able to find a classmate who had a family friend who lived 2 miles closer. The Hadleys have taken Dustin and I in, fed us, often lent us their car, and provided some great conversation. Even when Dustin couldn't make the trip, they housed me, an almost complete stranger, saving me from having to rent a room. I cannot over-express how I've seen God provide for my family in my time at school, and the Hadleys are a large example of that provision.
You can pray that I stay motivated to finish school strong (is it strongly?). I hope to be done mid-February, and then turn my attention to ordination exams. You can pray for our family as we continue to prepare the house to be sold. This means a lot of cleaning, sorting, and decisions of what is not coming with us. You can continue to pray for Abaco, as the rebuilding continues. Gabe said there were 33 people at the Kirk of the Pines for worship last week! Finally, you can pray for the faculty and staff at RTS-O as they continue training the leaders of the church. They are some great teachers who are incredible scholars that embrace their roles in educating church leadership in scripture and its application. I thank God that he led me to that wonderful school.