One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” There are many ways to apply this quote, but one thing it says to me is that sometimes it is more beneficial to not take the easy route in life, but rather take a risk and see what adventures lie ahead, making a positive impact as you go.
It is with this mindset that I am preparing to leave Kossuth, my family, and the many relationships that I have formed here, having recently accepted a graduate school offer at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. While it is not uncommon for students to move on after graduation, this move will be particularly difficult for me since this is the only place I have ever known in my 23 years of life. Hopefully the following reflections on my decision process and affirmation of Kossuth’s impact will be encouraging for the church body:
On a Saturday evening in April, the weekend before I had to make a decision on graduate schools, I took my Bible, a journal, and a blanket and set up shop in Purdue’s Horticulture Park, prepared to pray, think, and come to a decision to either stay at Purdue or journey to Colorado State. Away from distractions, I was able to reflect on the pros and cons on both schools. It was in this reflection that God led me to a factor I had not yet considered: that of taking a step of faith. He led me to Ecclesiastes 11, where Solomon journals “Cast your bread upon the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days” (11:1), and later “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap . . . sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good” (11:4,6). Through these verses, I could sense Solomon saying that there are times when the options before you are difficult to distinguish, but one is to go forth with his task without reservation or idleness. God does not ask His children to take the easy road of comfort and convenience, but rather calls for risk and boldness for the sake of His Name. West Lafayette is the only place I have ever known, so I realized that to stay here, all else being equal, would be the easy and comfortable choice. Thus, I have decided to cast my bread on the water and see where God’s current takes me by choosing to attend graduate school at Colorado State.
Life in Colorado will undoubtedly have many new challenges. I’m entering a much more liberal environment and will be around a new way of life. I know practically nobody in the community, and practically nothing about the area. Plus I have only seen a glimpse of what graduate school life is like, but from what I have seen it seems very intense, basically a full-time job with classes and research. Another wrinkle is that the Atmospheric Science department at CSU is isolated from the main part of campus by about a 10-15 minute drive into the foothills of the Rockies. As such, it will probably be easy for me to spend most of my time consumed with my work in the department and not interact with others in the community or other students on the main campus, but I pray that the Holy Spirit will spur me to action in reaching out to those around me despite this challenge. I’m hoping to use the easy access to outdoor activities I enjoy (trail-running, biking, skiing, etc.) as one mission field, and as a way to escape the drudgery of graduate school life. It will also be strange for me to go from several years of major leadership positions, both spiritual and general, to being at the bottom of the totem pole with no responsibility. While I’m not very comfortable in this “follower” role, I’m hoping that God uses it to grow me and learn to enjoy being served in contrast to my normal role of doing the serving. Entering CSU with a blank slate of sorts – no expectations from anyone and no established relationships – will be a relief. That said, I pray that I will make the most of each new interaction and meeting, not being ashamed to let the gospel define who I am and how I carry myself in my words and actions.
Despite the uncertainties of this new environment, God is already showing up in huge ways. Through a friend of Cally Burnside, I have learned quite a bit about the area and a church which has what appears to be a very vibrant international student ministry. The housing that I have applied to also serves as an outreach to international graduate students and scholars, similar to Crosswalk except without a specific church affiliation. I’m really praying that I will get a spot there. Since international student ministry continues to be a huge passion of mine, already having a couple connections along these lines before I even arrive is quite a blessing. From what I have heard and researched, there seem to be a lot of gospel-preaching churches in Fort Collins, so I have no doubts that I will be able to find a new church home, although of course nothing can ever replace Kossuth. And I know that I can always tap on Paul Briggs who seems to have connections in every nook and cranny across the world if I need more church suggestions!
Let me conclude by expressing my deep thanks for the body of believers at Kossuth. The training and discipleship that I have experienced here has more-than-prepared me for gospel service in my next phase of life. Kossuth’s passions for sound doctrine and teaching, global missions, international student ministry, and small group discipleship stand out as areas where I see the church excelling in its quest carry out the Great Commission. There are also many individuals, both present and past, to thank for how they have poured their knowledge and care into my life, but that would take all day. Let me just categorize and say thanks first of all to all the nursery caretakers who put up with my constant fussiness as a toddler. Thanks to my Sunday School and Bible Investigators teachers who showed me the importance of reading and memorizing the Word as a young boy (I can still picture the weekly recitation of John 1:12 with my fellow Bible Investigators classmates). Thanks to those who helped get me through those emotionally-difficult junior high and high school years by teaching truth and providing an outlet from the stresses of teenage woes. Thanks to those who have invested in me through my college years, teaching me exactly what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples and spurring me on to take some leadership roles. Thanks to Pastor Whipple (and now Drew) for faithfully preaching the Word of God every Sunday. That is perhaps one of the aspects of Kossuth I am most appreciative of – I never have had to doubt that the gospel will be preached. Thanks to the rest of the church body who has encouraged and supported me over the years through thick and thin. And most of all, thanks to my family for modeling what godly people look like and instilling in me the importance of fellowship with the church from infancy. Looking back, there have certainly been some amazing memories here: my baptism, moving into a new building, participating in various Jubilee Runs, Wednesday night prayer meetings, and much more! No matter how hard I look, I will never be able to find another Kossuth. But by God’s grace, there are many other churches out there with similar qualities for me to be a part of. Starting over in this sense will help me to appreciate even more God’s Universal Church.
I challenge the members of Kossuth to continue to shine like stars in the midst of a dark and crooked world. Keep preaching and teaching the Word corporately each Sunday and study it individually on a regular basis. May you continue to play a huge role in reaching international students at Purdue for Christ. If you have never caught a glimpse for international student ministry, try adopting a room of students at Crosswalk, helping students move in at the beginning of the semester, or approach the dozens who attend church service each week (even if you are concerned about the language barrier). May you also continue to grow a passion for serving those in our immediate neighborhood, encouraging families and children to come and learn about Jesus. Keep preparing, sending, and praying for missionaries. And perhaps most of all, invest in a 1-2-1 relationship with a nonbeliever. This was revolutionary to me throughout my time as a college student. Even if fears overwhelm you, let me assure you that reading the Bible together with a dear friend who doesn’t know Jesus over coffee or a meal on a weekly or bi-weekly basis will transform how you view discipleship. Of course, I’d encourage you to also read the Bible with fellow believers too!
While it is hard to leave this church, I have to say that I am super-excited about where Kossuth is headed and look forward to hearing stories of how God works through this body. As Paul prays for the Philippians, so I pray for you “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11).