Why Small Groups?
My first semester at Carolina was an emotionally and spiritually difficult period of time. I struggled finding my place, feeling “at home”, and especially with being away from my home church. I joined a Freshley small group a few weeks into the semester, and instantly felt like, at least for one hour a week, I had a place that felt comfortable. There were people who expected me to be somewhere, valued my presence, and missed me when I was absent. Freshley was a community of people who were experiencing similar struggles to my own. Freshley was a safe space where I could share my faith, talk about my relationship with God, and ask questions.
After being involved with Wesley for a little bit longer, though, I realized that my Freshley small group was different than a lot of small groups I had been a part of in the past. Freshley was more of a community in the sense that my peers in Wesley became some of my best friends at Carolina. Fellowship is an essential component of growing as the body of Christ, and joining a Freshley small group allowed me to do this while also feeling more connected to the greater Wesley community.
Welsey has become one of my greatest loves here at Carolina, and that is largely thanks to the way I felt plugged into the ministry by the Freshley small group leaders. This year I am blessed to continue my presence in Freshley with a wonderful group of first years who show me each week what it means to be the light of the world as followers of Christ. Joining a small group at Wesley, for me, meant being loved, having the opportunity to share my love with others, and loving God together with my community.
-Bailey Brislin, Class of 2018
Small groups… #WhatAreThose
Coming to UNC, I was delighted to find a thriving Methodist campus ministry that I could get involved with. I mean heck, the population of Wesley is about the size of my entire home church, so I was especially delighted to find that there were that many people MY AGE in Wesley alone. For a while, that was enough for me.
I heard about small groups quite a bit my first year, especially around the turn of the semester, but I did not give much heed to joining one. To me, small groups, by such a name at least, was a foreign concept. Others may have been familiar with small groups coming into college; maybe your church had them for instance, but for me, looking back now, my youth group was itself probably what might be called a small group. But without having ever been part of a small group before, I saw no reason why one needed to be part of my life now.
Things began to change the spring semester for my first year. Though I had no intentions to join a small group, I was invited to join one. Considering that it met at late night in Rams and that other’s in the group told me they’d swipe me in, I figured I’d give it a shot (if nothing else, I’d at least get free food after all). But after I started coming, I was hooked. I fell in love with small groups and haven’t turned back.
You see, for me, while I love worship, I also love people and talking, and you can only talk to and connect with people so much during worship. Joining small groups, on the other hand, has given me an opportunity to do just that. Every week when I get to small group, I know there will be people there who are willing to love me and care about what is going on in my life. With that group of people, we get to talk to each other about school, about family, about faith, about our other interests, about God, and about a whole list of other things. In these conversations I can certainly see the mission state of Wesley come to life. In them, I learn more about the love of God and am able to return that love by loving others in the groups and then being energized to leave small group to share that love with others in a way that changes the world.
-Adam Bock, Class of 2016
Much like Carolina students on the first day of class, one of the first things Jesus does in his ministry is arrive at an old well. This well dated back over 1,5000 years to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson and the father of Joseph (of the amazing technicolor dream coat). But, unlike Carolina students, Jesus was not able to drink from the well; it was deep, and he had no bucket—and there was no one around.
You see, in those days wells were gathering places where the women, predominantly, would come in the mornings or evenings to draw water and exchange the latest news and happenings. But, now it was noon. The morning draw was hours before; the evening draw was several hours yet to come. The likelihood of anyone coming to draw water in the heat of the day was slim to none.
But, a woman came, and Jesus asks her for a drink. As their conversation unfolds, Jesus offers her something even better than the water he requested. He offers her living water—a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. It takes the woman a little while to realize just whom she has encountered and just what he is offering her, but when it all sinks in, she runs back to her city and tells everyone that she has met the Savior.
Whereas she came to gather water, she leaves as one sent out to spread the Gospel; Jesus has turned a gathering place into a sending place.
As I assume the position of Campus Minister for UNC Wesley, I am excited to continue our ministry’s discernment of what it means to consider ourselves a sending place, instead of a gathering place—what it means to think of our ministry not as a building, but as a movement spreading throughout the entire Chapel Hill campus and community to bring the good news, hope, love, joy, and peace of Jesus Christ to those who need it most.
And so, I went to the Old Well this morning—as my first act as Campus Minister—to drink the water, yes, but also to dream of how we, together, can continue to be part of God’s bringing forth a gushing spring of living water in Chapel Hill.
As I join you in this work, I am grateful for your prayers and support for UNC Wesley. I realize how blessed I am to join a ministry that is so strong Spiritually and financially. I thank you and all of Wesley’s previous campus ministers (on whose shoulders I humbly stand) for this.
May God bless us all as we continue to love God, love others, and change the world,
PS: Only 43 days until First Year Student Move-In begins!
(To read more about Jesus and the Woman at the Well, see John 4.1-42.)
Rev. Ryan G. Spurrier joins UNC Wesley as Campus Minister after serving as an Associate Pastor in both North Augusta and Greenwood, South Carolina. In Greenwood, he founded the Methodist Campus Ministry at Lander University. He is a Full Elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference and a graduate of Duke Divinity School. His wife, Kyrsten, of just over a year is an Occupational Therapist at Duke University Hospital. They are both excited to join the UNC Wesley family.
Thursday, March 12, 2015 - On Thursday, we started the day off with a bit of an adventure. We drove all over Atlanta until, finally, we reached our destination: Books For Africa. We stepped into the large warehouse to find boxes and boxes full of books ready to be shipped all over Africa. The employees there were incredibly helpful and showed us all over the warehouse. We then sorted books based off age group and subject. Age groups included elementary, middle, high school, and university. Most of these groups all included sections for math, science, social studies, English, and leisure. The university group had even more sections for things like health, business, computer science, and more. Additionally, there were sections for reference, religious, and French books, as well as for school supplies. We also had to sort out and recycle anything about American History, dieting, cooking, self help, Halloween, Santa Clause, etc.
After sorting books for a while, we even had the opportunity to start packing books into boxes to send off. Julie, Leslie, and I packed boxes for elementary leisure books. We packed these as tightly as we could so that as many books could be given as possible. We packed so many boxes that we almost finished a whole palette (composed of 28 boxes).
I particularly enjoyed Books For Africa because my sorority’s national philanthropy focuses on promoting literacy. Also, I love to read, and reading has certainly been a large part of my childhood, a part of it that I highly value. It was great to see this organization working to give books (that would otherwise be in landfills) to Africa to make reading a part of the childhoods of those there as well. For, to my understanding from what the staff there told us, books can be hard to come by in parts of Africa. Additionally, it was great to see college textbooks being sent as well. Even here in the U.S., acquiring textbooks can be a challenge because they are so expensive, so it was great to see so many donated textbooks being sent.
However, at times we did find ourselves questioning the work of this organization. While it is well intentioned, we were continually reminded of the effects of imperialism, for largely all of the books sent are in English. Additionally, some of the books we sent were essentially trash. We came across many “romance”-type novels, books that we were surprised anyone would buy. With many of these types of books, we somewhat questioned whether they would really benefit those reading them, and we also questioned the work itself, which with these kind of books seemed like we were just sending off our unwanted trash. At the same time, however, we did find many great books. I saw many Harry Potter books, some Shakespeare, The Secret Life of Bees, and more. Ultimately, while some of the books seemed like poor choices to send off, there were many great books that will be sent that will hopefully help many children one day.
Later on Thursday, we traveled back to Action Ministries, this time to help with their after school program. First, we met Ms. Mabel, a retired school teacher who helps run the program. She told us about the program and what we would be doing for the afternoon. In total Action has sixteen children from Kindergarten through 5th grade that take part in this after school program. Ms. Mabel told us that each of the children in the program lives in government-subsidized housing (“the projects,” as some might call it). The goal of this program is essentially to encourage these children to become good students and go off to college.
Once the children arrived, we helped with snack time, which involved reading two books to the children while they ate their snacks. After that, we helped the students with their homework and then served them dinner before the small bus took each of them home.
In the classroom used for the afterschool care at Action, there were pictures of each child on the wall. With each photo was the name of the child as well as the university that each child said they want to attend. I found this really embodied the mission behind this afterschool program. Ms. Mabel and the others who help with it love the children so much and truly want them to grow as students and as people so that they can go to college and live well after that. Ms. Mabel and the others are truly making a difference with this program, and I believe that it’s all due to the help of God. I know I certainly couldn’t do what they are doing all alone. Just working one-on-one with a first grader on their homework was difficult enough – I couldn’t imagine trying to get all sixteen of the children to do their work with only the help of a few others. But Ms. Mabel is patient and kind. She loves the children and is determined to see them do their best academically.
As fellow servants of the Lord, I think we all found this love and determination encouraging. At least speaking for myself, selfishly, I hope that I can find a way to use my gifts from God to serve as lovingly and determinately as Ms. Mabel.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
When you think of a farm you probably don’t picture 9 acres of land in the middle of a big city such as Atlanta. Wednesday, our group had the pleasure of working on the farm of the church we were staying at—something I wasn’t particularly excited about but was pleasantly surprised. In the evening we shopped around Atlantic Station, but mostly reflected on the struggles and laughs we had throughout the day on the farm. Here are the 20 things you’ll learn while working on a farm. Proceed with caution: goats bite.
1. Composting is really cool (and something that gives back to the earth what it gave to us)
2. Goats and Sheep will eat anything (even coffee filters and trash)
3. A male sheep is a ram
4. A baby sheep is a lamb (and the cutest animal on the farm)
5. A female sheep is an ewe
6. Sheep is just a general term
7. Chicken will indeed run after you if you are holding a scoop of food
8. There are no pregnant chickens (Thank you, Bailey)
9. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with the right tools and people, such as making a sheep pen. Ewe pen? Lamb pen? Ram pen? (Once you actually find the tools you need)
10. Vinca plant, a poisonous vine that can kill goats, is also somewhat impossible to find in the ground and to pull out of the ground (Emily, Mikala, Leslie, and Dave can attest to this after doing it for 4 hours)
11. Adam is really good at controlling fires (including multiple fires, on an incline)
12. Lost goats can be found on school rooftops
13. Bailey can sing (songs she makes up about whatever activity is taking place)
14. Emus are not friendly (or pretty) animals
15. The distance between gardening berms should be four feet wide
16. You can meet some cool people (like Brenda, who travelled from her home in Canada to spend her 3-week vacation volunteering on gardens in Georgia)
17. Red clay isn’t great for gardening (and will stain your shoes)
18. Pigs are smelly (but Leslie kisses them anyway)
19. The food grown on the farm will benefit the community
20. Just how thankful you are for what you have and how the work you’ve done will better so many people.
Tuesday March 10, 20 15 - This morning the Wesley Clan had to break in to two groups as we headed to Loaves and Fishes and Action Ministries. My group had the opportunity to serve lunch at Action Ministries, a nonprofit that offers services to underprivileged women and children in the Atlanta area. We helped women from a local church prepare lunch, which included corn, spaghetti, salad, grilled cheese, and bread. Once 11:00 rolled around, guests from the community began to arrive. As they found a seat, we greeted them with a plate full of food and took their drink orders. It was such a humbling experience to be able to give these women a dining experience like in a restaurant. After serving these ladies and the group from UNC-Greensboro (one of three other groups from NC in Atlanta this week), we joined for lunch and had the chance to engage in conversation. The highlight of the day, for me, came in the afternoon once the whole gang was reunited at MedShare. Here, we had the great honor to spend time with Dr. Bayor who came to America from Ghana. MedShare works kind of like a food bank for medical supplies. The warehouse is the size of about two Costcos or maybe the first and second floor of Ikea, and is stocked from floor to ceiling with medical equipment, supplies, and machinery. This is a remarkable amount of medical equipment, but what’s even more incredible is that all of it would have ended up in a landfill if MedShare hadn’t partnered with hospitals and doctors around the country. MedShare receives donations by palette and works with the help of volunteers to sort and package these medical supplies to be sent to 96 different countries around the world. During the short time we got to spend there, we were able to package 63 boxes to be sent out later this month. I, alone, can say that at least 5 of the boxes contained catheters. This was particularly moving because earlier Dr. Bayor told us a story about one of the partner hospitals in Africa that had ONE catheter for the entire patient population. Although we couldn’t see the immediate affect that the equipment had for doctor and patients, we know that those boxes each have the potential to save multiple lives. As another day on the farm comes to a close, I feel reminded of God’s presence in my life and in our work team this week. Each night we have been asked to reflect on our day, and tonight I am grateful for the relationships that I’ve made this week. It’s been so wonderful to grow closer to this work team and share this experience of growing and serving with them. I’m ready to see what the rest of this week has in store for our team and how we will continue to leave our mark here in Atlanta.
Monday March 9, 2015 - Our day began bright and early at 7:00 am! Following a quick breakfast we were out the door and in our cars (ships?) and on the way to our first destination, the DWELL House. DWELL is another branch of the DOOR Ministry that commits to being in mission for a year. We spent the morning cleaning up the yard that houses these amazing people. Between the raking of the leaves, the clearing out of the garden, and the planting of all sorts of berries, vegetables, and flowers, a lot of dirt got under our fingernails. But as the pastor of the church that we are staying at pointed out, the kneeling position we assume in gardening mirrors the position of prayer and we should embrace it! From there we went to Action Ministry where we assisted them in handing out bag lunches and pizza to those who do not know where their next meal is coming from. Following those amazing experiences of serving we went to the MLK center and spent the afternoon learning more about the civil rights leader. I think the biggest takeaway for me was that MLK was just a man, who like all of us had his own doubts and uncertainties, but during those times he turned to God in prayer! I cannot help but wonder that if we turn to God this week with all of our uncertainties and doubts, how many lives can be changed including our own? - Ann Bingham
We have arrived in Atlanta! After a heartbreaking loss to Duke Saturday night, losing an hour of sleep, my car’s battery dying, and leaving Jane stranded at the RR lot, we made it to church Sunday morning at 9am to begin our journey. Apparently we got all of our mishaps out of the way before the trip. At the pre-trip dinner we talked about going on a pilgrimage rather than a short term mission trip; that way, every step we take to prepare for, participate in, and reflect on the trip is part of our journey. While this is noble symbolism, we couldn’t stop thinking about the Mayflower and Thanksgiving. Therefore, we named the cars The Mayflower aka White Lightning, The Flying Dutchman aka Silver Bullet, and Queen Ann’s Revenge aka Red Thunder. Silver Bullet took the lead for most of the day, while of course Red Thunder followed White Lightning. After a long day of driving we finally arrived at Berea Mennonite Church/Oakleaf Mennonite Farm in Atlanta, GA. Yes you read that right; we are staying on a FARM 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta. Complete with goats, sheep, fields, and farmers, this place is truly unique and we are excited to see what is to come. There are two other groups here from Ohio and North Carolina, totaling around 40 people in this relatively small church! To end the evening we drove to another church in downtown Atlanta to hand out sandwiches, fruit, and water to the homeless population that lives around the church. We are geared up for the trip and ready to start the next day bright and early!
Hello, Wesley! I’m Dave and I am one of UNC Wesley’s two interns this year. I’ve already experienced the Big Wesley Love of this community and I’m so excited for this year!
I am from Florida, although much of what I call home is in Georgia as well. I graduated from Florida Southern College (Go Mocs!) with a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy. During and after college I served at various United Methodist Church camps. Before coming to Durham to study in divinity school I interned at a camp and retreat center in the north Georgia mountains. I love hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, reading fiction, running, nature, the Atlanta Braves, traveling, good food, and good fun.
My faith story began in college. College campus ministry is my home. Through the campus ministries at FSC, my faith took shape and I learned that Christian faith means being active in the world, loving God, and positively transforming the lives of others. It is a joy to be in ministry with all of you! I am excited to faithfully follow God and be resource to you all. I look forward to all the good fruit that will come this year through the grace and love of the Holy Spirit in our midst.