Covid-19, Rollercoasters, and Pineapple

Finding out how Campus Life still changes lives from home

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

— Romans 8:38-39.

In the words of the rapper Drake: “What a time to be alive.”

Most of you reading this are sitting in the same sort of place I am: your home. I’ve been struggling to type this post not because of the lack of time necessarily, but because of the lack of normalcy. Just like many people, being told to stay home for days on end isn’t necessarily my dream every day. Not to mention adding three kids on top of it makes it feel like its going to be fun until it never ends.

For example, imagine you’ve been in line waiting for the Top Thrill Dragster and you finally get on. After getting buckled in, the operator tells everyone they must stay buckled in until the train makes it around the track and back into the station. You would obviously agree and scream with delight as we come up to the starting line. Then, we’re off! We go up the main hill, get to the top…and then realize its a misfire, and come screeching back to the beginning. The operator’s instructions ring true: stay buckled in until the ride is complete.

And then you just do that forever. Thats quarantine.

Not having a normal schedule feels like a vacation for about 10 minutes, and then the reality that you can’t do what you planned to do sets in.

Or at least it does in many of us. I have found myself still reaching out to students, trying to connect with them in their homes while they’re on the game (video game systems) or FaceTiming other people. Though the world is tied down, there are still people going through normal problems that aren’t tied to the virus, like “who are my friends long term?” and “should I eat apple or pineapple.”

No matter what goes on in this world, we’re still fighting to share with students the truth about Jesus. I’ve adopted a love for Zoom, and have been able to call different students throughout the week from Waverly and even Eaton County. I still find myself checking in with different people throughout the week just to make sure they’re alive and well, considering I know that human connection is still a gift in this time.

My family has gotten to see me all the time. I’ve almost gotten tired of my kids; thank goodness I love them over all of that. My wife and I have gotten plenty of time together, as she has been working from home and living the dream by seeing all of us every day. If only the quarantine would lift and we could keep this schedule…just adding in some students to our home when we got the chance.

We’re all in a tough place. Some of us tougher than others. I have students in Eaton County who can’t even use their home passes they have worked so hard to earn. I have students who are in homes they don’t want to be in, and others who are wondering what to do without work happening for them or their parents. I know many of you have the same fear. But let’s not forget the truth: God is working and moving through all of this, and there is “nothing that can separate us.”

Please continue to follow this journey and believe in what I and my teammates at Greater Lansing Campus Life are working to accomplish. If you want more info, or more ways to help, email me at josiah@lansingcampuslife.net and I’ll be glad to follow up. Maybe after all of this we can get some coffee.

Here’s to more stories, and more lives changed.

Zoom In, Zoom Out

“Welcome to the first day of school. We’re glad to see you back.

Make sure to mute your microphone if it’s not your turn to speak.

Let’s all introduce ourselves! Lets start right up front with…

Well, the first other video on my screen is James, so let’s start there.

So James, tell us your name, your favorite subject, and what’s a hobby you really enjoy?

James, you forgot to unmute.”

Welcome to our new world. This is what many schools are dealing with across the country. Even in schools which have started face to face learning, there are still families which have chosen to stay home this year, making sure they make the chance of catching Covid from classmates almost zero. I’m sure the conversations happening have a lot of the same vibes; “this is us trying to sound completely normal, but here are the new-age stipulations we’re dealing with trying to stop it…we’re not gonna let them, though.”

Yes, being conformed to a partial online experience sounds like something out of Black Mirror, but we’re going to pretend we’re not writing a script about the end of our society as we’ve known it. We’re going to put on our thinking caps and find ways to show positivity will get us through this time. And we’re going to pray we can get back to some sort of normalcy.

Sorry, that’s a wonderfully depressing (and long) introduction to say the school year has not started as planned. Some of you reading this aren’t dealing with these things directly, but are dealing with your student having to wear a mask every day, following one way signals about as well as Chicago drivers, and enjoying the extra leg room from having spread out desks in each classroom. It’s the little things here which will keep us entertained through these tough times.

As students of any age, I know this has been difficult. The world as you once saw it, whether full of dreams or full of nightmares, as somehow become even more daunting than it did before. Our society has become discouraged by the never ending story of outbreaks shared amongst our family, friends, coworkers and so on. And in the middle of our steps forward, it seems that we’re stuck stepping back in multiple different directions. It’s hard to hold up going forward when we have been continually let down by the mainstream leaders.

But there is hope to be had.

With a vaccine on the way, there is the potential the world could find a touch of normalcy over the next few months. We overcame the coin crisis (to an extent), and self checkout lanes finally opened back up for cash payments at our local grocery stores. People have invented all kinds of new ways to hang out in this tough time, like drive through birthday celebrations, virtual card games of all kinds, and Facetime calls to everyone we love. We have found out how much small business matters to us, as we have seen the suffering of some owners and fought to keep open as many different places as possible.

As we continue to fight through a time of social distance, we can no longer allow for our hearts to experience this distance. As much as the calls don’t do the laughter justice, and as much as masks take away from the smiles in public, we must continue to endure these moments to be able to embrace each other again. This isn’t a statement on what works and what doesn’t; it’s a call to the hearts of all people to believe there is hope beyond these moments, and we won’t be away forever. School will return in person one day, we’ll get to see sports from the bleachers, and we’ll be able to shake up with our friends when we see them in public.

As we listen to the calls on our computers and witness the gaps between people expand, continue to find hope in knowing we can fill the gap. As we have now adjusted and become accustomed to this new normal, don’t forget this normal will change.

So You Want to Make a Difference…

So, I hear tensions are high around our country. I’m sure you’re just as tired as I am of remembering to put your mask on when you get out of the car to head inside, and I’m sure checking the news has become one of your heaviest burdens to bear. As society continues to sputter along, wondering if its trying to survive a second wave, a hideous election season, or the cancel culture of everything and everyone, many of us have found ourselves in a large predicament labeled under one question: what do I do to help?

Speaking out against systemic racism has become a pretty normal staple to see on your timeline, and many of us find ourselves having to also defend the love of the policemen in our lives. Is making sure to share your status on social media enough? Is just being conscious of how people aren’t loving people really making a difference?

Many of us are looking for tangible answers to this question. I know many people have signed every petition they can find which aligns with this thought process, and I know of others who have found themselves donating to groups, campaigns, and even whole countries (we see it, Yemen). With Covid-19 keeping many people out of work for so long, however, giving money you don’t have isn’t really an option at this time. A petition may be looking for justice for one person, or a set of rules to change which could still take more time than we want to allow. Could it be possible there are even better ways to help?

Enter in my own personal example: Campus Life. As someone who grew up in a community which lacked diversity outside of the tribe and then myself, I found moving to Lansing to be a culture shock of epic proportions. After years of living here and finding out my place was going to be this city for a decent amount of time to come, it was then I finally looked into following a call to work with teens here in the city in a dramatic way. I gave up the opportunity for growth in the world of edible business and joined the Greater Lansing Youth for Christ team, since they were willing to have me.

I started a job working with Waverly High School, a high school which ranked in the top 1% of diversity in the state, and probably the top 10% of the nation. I learned about the basics of doing my job and had to find different ways to extend those teachings into my high school, where around every corner I walked around I met someone who had a different upbringing than the person I talked to before. I found myself learning about vernacular I probably would have never taken on myself. I learned about how important certain songs are to the next generation, the best way to communicate with social media (or not to), and most importantly the ways Jesus was loving on each of these students on a daily basis.

Too many times I see people looking for change in this current world and moving around like their handcuffed. They show up to the right events, speak to the right people, but either can’t take the next step of reaching out to people, or get tongue-tied when it comes to saying things out of love. Since I started my job, I have picked up the opportunity to work with another high school, continued to extend my role working with Eaton County Youth Center, and dreamed even bigger about how the impact we’re making can be extended to more students in more high schools.

It’s not cool to talk about change and be unable to find time to make the change yourself.

Maybe working with high school students isn’t what you’re looking for. You could fit into a different category, working with younger kids, even small children, or maybe your reach should be into the homeless community in your area, or working with retired veterans giving them better stability. The options are numerous, but a lack of awareness and participation to build better relationships and grow a proper footprint in history isn’t one of them.

I write about Campus Life because its what I love. Its the vehicle I have chosen to continue to grow and duplicate the Gospel to all the people I can run into. However, I know many people would find it difficult to take all of this in stride and then find out I’m asking you to quit your job and give up your original dreams to make sure people here they are loved. I’m definitely not against the notion, but I also know my choice isn’t for everyone. To see the world in a position of peril and to continue with your life because you won’t be affected is a terrible waste of your ability to be an influence on multiple people in different arenas. I encourage you to either join me or a group like mine in your area to reach the next generation, or to look into your current generation and create opportunity for better life groups, or even look into an older generation and give them hope that they are still loved and haven’t been forgotten.

It’s time to find a place in this world which makes a difference. If you’re looking for a spot, message me at josiah@lansingcampuslife.net or text me at (906)203-7150 to find ways to get you involved somewhere, in whatever city you’re in. Let’s find a way to change this world, one person at a time.

Finding Us in the Storm

The anticipation before a thunderstorm rises through nature and amplifies everything around us. The wind picks up speed, the temperature rises, and you can feel the intensity of the dark clouds hanging above. Our anticipation usually doesn’t fit into the equation too well; the fear of pouring rain drenching us like falling in a pool with our clothes on usually sends us scurrying inside. My daughter Claire covers her ears every time she hears the sound, afraid the rumbling will cause her body to feel pain, the lightning a warning to her ears of the terror that is to come.

If you take a second and sit, however, and watch a storm roll in, not everything is negative. Many of us know this; the storm like God’s orchestra playing something beyond Fantasia for all of us to witness. My home as a covered porch, and sometimes I sit outside and watch as the storms roll in from the West, its lights and sounds demanding attention from all who are in its path. The light show, a tremendous achievement of nature, sends flashes through the indoors of our homes even with the blinds up, and the sound shakes even below the ground level in some instances. No, it’s the opposite of sunshine and rainbows, but there are powerful glimpses of wonder which shine through.

Just like a storm, I have found myself in awe of what has come from Campus Life.

Over the course of 2 years, there has been plenty of fear as I’ve been a part of this group. The unknown if I was going to get any students hung over me daily. The fear I wouldn’t be accepted for who I was or what I said, even before I started talking about Jesus. There was the terrifying reality I would never get funding from people to continue to do what I’m doing. All of these things hung like dark clouds rolling over my life, the winds of change pushing them at a destructive pace into my living room to deal with daily.

With all that in mind…I’ve never felt more fulfilled. Not every moment in Campus Life has been full of wonder like I hoped. The fear hasn’t left most days; it still sometimes inhibits my ability to do what I need to do, like stopping me from asking people to donate (in the middle of a pandemic) or to volunteer (seriously, we always need more people who love Jesus to come hang out with our students).

But the happiness, the joy, and the friendship have all outweighed the fears. In the midst of rain, I have found all the benefits to be things to remember, like all the memories I’ll have forever.

Even without a Florida trip this year, I’ve still seen and heard from so many students about their growth and connection to something bigger than either of us: the love of Jesus. I’ve watched as my fears of being accepted have been worthwhile at points, but the Gospel has always carried enough weight to change the people who have given it a listening ear. I have met so many people I never thought I would have, and I can’t see myself working anywhere else. The storm may not pass, but it has become a beacon of my joy to live this life as Campus Life.

I keep getting this truth from Romans 8 in my head, and I really think other people should too. “For I am persuaded, that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” How true it is! As I’m stuck at home, with all of you scrolling through this from your homes as well, I hope you know how cherished we are by the King. How my fear may be a storm but he is the overseer of every single storm which hangs over any one of us, and He has given us joy to overcome all of these obstacles.

I wonder sometimes why I took this job, and as I’m scared of what my job will look like after all the lockdown is over, I look at these photos and these conversations with students and cry like it’s the Notebook and I care about sappy love stories more than life. Please, take these moments and share them, share this concept with everyone you know! See how awesome the world has been for each one of our students as they have continued to get connected to our Campus Life teams!

And every time you see a storm, be excited for the joy that comes with it.

Spring Break, Pt. 2

A week in Michigan feels like two weeks in any other state.

With so much extra time on your hands, not everything has to suffer.

The generally good part about quarantine has been the amount of family time everyone has received. We can focus on all the things we can’t have (which is not exclusive to quarantine), or we can find the beauty in the given. The best gift we can ever receive is usually the one we find the most difficulty enjoying: our families.

I have spent 20 days with my kids now, in a row, without air space beyond these four walls. Some days I feel like a hamster in a classroom of 1st grade children and its only week two of my existence, and other days I feel like we’ve gotten nothing but picturesque moments for the family catalog. I find myself laughing with my kids as they explore how language works, crying as I tell them one more time a place we can’t go until further notice, and cheering for them as they get ahead of me one more time on the race down our hill.

As much as I miss the idea of being in beautiful weather with a crew of students who have changed my life, I can’t help but notice my wife Megan kept her vacation time even though she has been able to work from home for two weeks. We have nothing but time to spend and love to share; how can I be distraught about that?

Even more, the people haven’t gone away. We’re sitting in our homes just like the barbecue sauce you’ve had on standby in the door of your fridge for who knows how long. I can’t stress it enough: make an effort to connect with the people who mean something to you. It is incredibly easy to wake up one day in the middle of lockdown and finally find yourself feeling a sense of normalcy, and then simply keep it to yourself.

I wrote letters to students all around the city this past week, making an attempt to prove they aren’t forgotten about. I was hoping the lines would settle somewhere within them, finding a home in their heart so they wouldn’t forget me either. I have been terrified of the unknown, just like everyone else, but I think my ego is more terrified of being forgotten, and to know and be known is the want of every person, no matter how big or how small.

No matter if another person ever knows me, however, my beautiful family won’t ever let go. And even beyond that, John the Baptist told me “He must become greater, I must become less.”

This next week, I have a beautiful opportunity to sit and be known by a beautiful God, to learn more amazing things about my family, and I can hope and pray one more student finds this belief something worth holding on to, and in between talks with their family they’ll watch some of the live stream we’re doing, or they’ll catch the show on Wednesday, or maybe they’ll just send a message.

I have so many blessings to keep me going…maybe I’ll be given just one more every day.

Give the little things the weight they deserve, because everything else will just weigh you down.

Stay safe friends.

Spring Break, Pt. 1

In less than 24 hours, I should be waking up around 7 am to make sure I’m at the office, making sure our tables are still set up from the week before and the chairs are still in line. By 8:30 am the rest of our staff team would be arriving, and one of our leaders would be at the front assigning all our positions to help us transition 70 kids from the front door to each bus they belong in. And by 10 am, we would be on the road, traveling for 25 hours to arrive in Leesburg, Florida, for a week.

Unfortunately, that’s currently not an option.

The more I think about it, the more upset I get. Sure, most people are missing their Spring Break plans this year, and yes, I understand it is nothing but a privilege to be able to spend a week somewhere other than home. I can hear people in my head trying to correct my thinking. “It’s going to keep you safe.” “This is all going to be worth it and you’ll be able to go again in the future.”

But this isn’t about that feeling right now.

For those of you who don’t understand the depth of the Florida trip, let’s take another trip in the Imagination Station. Imagine your boss sets you up for a face to face conference designed for physical interaction and mental/emotional growth specifically in your field. They say its also going to be limited on hours every day with the expectation you will use the rest of the extra hours to develop relationships with other members of your company and to excel the growth throughout the week with opportune breakouts on topics you choose, with food provided.

Oh, it’s also in one of your top 3 places in the country to hangout. That sounds incredible, does it not?

That’s Florida.

My heart has felt so broken since the day three weeks ago that we had to call the trip. The Florida trip is one of most impactful weeks I’ve ever experienced. We get to play games, participate in skits, eat decent food, visit at least two amazing beaches, go to a water park…and talk about Jesus with students that haven’t really heard the news before.

In Florida, kids get to hang out with other students from around the Lansing area and experience the reality of we aren’t that different. We get to share real stories of pain and discuss how we want things to be better, and our staff gets a chance to share how we’ve determine that’s better through our radical faith. Faith that still struggles to move mountains like Covid-19, but we believe they will be overcome.

I miss the idea of waking up again every day at 6:30 am to watch the sunrise come up over the lake, while someone plays alligator mating calls on their phone. I miss the idea of getting to ride around Daytona on some flashy bicycles, like I missed out on last year, too. I miss laughing until I can’t breathe anymore, and staying up way too late in the cabin so I don’t miss the last joke that’s told.

I miss the stone faces when we present some tough reality from the stage and we have to bring it up in discussion. I miss the tears shed as we sit down in the rocking chairs or by the fire and talk about how we want to see change, and the students are asking me what they have to change. I miss getting to pray with kids that would have never had that experience unless they joined us, and how they want to choose those things because of the love they have been show this week.

I’m gonna miss all of it, and the truth doesn’t get any easier to say no matter how many times I try to say it.

Yes, there are good things coming out of this, but the yearning for memories you can’t have is one which wells up in your chest and leaks from the corners of your eyes just a little bit so you can wipe it away before someone notices. It’s like finding out your favorite restaurant no longer has your go to dish, but it’s your birthday and no one else showed up except your family and they wanted the same dish as well.

Pray for our students. Pray for the conversations that will still happen with a quiver of sadness in our voices. Pray for some sort of community no matter how distant. Pray we can find a way to explore the world from the safety of our technology.

And you can miss Florida for us too.

Introducing Josiah: WaveMaker

Welcome to the Wave. I’m your WaveMaker, Josiah.

I’m a Campus Life Director and Juvenile Justice Representative for Greater Lansing Youth for Christ, and I think more people should know about the awesome stuff we’re doing.

I believe the next generation will always be the next step in change, and my goal is to be a part of whatever God wants them to be. Hopefully its future leaders who think Jesus is central and who want to see their neighborhoods and homes changed for the better.

Sometimes it’s not that. And that’s okay.

Come be a part of this journey with me, as I find out new ways to connect with students from across the Greater Lansing area, and as God shows me all sorts of new meaning to the words “life,” “love,” and “Tik Tok.”

I’ll be updating this periodically, but if you want a more condensed version to pray over, send me your email so I can make sure to get you a monthly letter every month.

If you’re really interested in following up, what I do is for a non-profit that needs donations all the time, so please consider donating here: https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=44f071. You’ll get better benefits that way, including my family and I praying for you.

That’s all I’ve got. Take a look at some of the students below that are currently a part of this journey…