The fall semester started about a month ago at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and students are settled into dorm rooms and class schedules. Meanwhile, in the building across the street from campus, Bob Prue (Rosebud Sioux) is sorting out what it means to be the Ministry leader for the Haskell LIGHT Campus MInistry.
"My ideas and plans for our ministry have changed a little in the last month. As we learn the needs of the students, we have been modifying and adapting what we do to meet them where they are," Bob explained. "There are over 900 students at Haskell, and we know we can't meet the needs of all them, but we're doing our best with those who show up at our door. And there have been a lot of them!"
The year started off with a Welcome Back Bash on the LIGHT House lawn, complete with a BBQ feast, volleyball, a water slide, a bounce house, and a dunk tank. Over the course of an afternoon, the LIGHT House hosted between 200 and 250 guests.
"We handed out a lot of flyers and talked up the event as much as we could, but I never expected so many people to show up. It was awesome!" Bob exclaimed. "We met so many new students, and the casual atmosphere was great for making connections and starting relationships without being intimidating. It was a really exciting afternoon for us, because we saw how big the opportunity is here at Haskell to change Native people's lives through the power of the Holy Spirit!"
The Welcome Back Bash was followed by the Haskell Highlight Night, a campus and activities fair held on the Powow grounds, providing yet another opportunity for Bob, and his wife, Deon, to let students know the LIGHT House is open and the staff is available.
And Highlight Night was quickly followed by the LIGHT House's first dinner event, weekly Sunday nights of fellowship and food. Since the first dinner, Bob and Deon have hosted 35-40 people weekly.
As far as events go, the LIGHT House is hitting it out of the park. But what about the ministry?
"Going into the school year, I had thought I would hold a structured, weekly Bible classes. I spent hours and hours working on a really intense, Bible-driven, hour-long study to do with students, and only one person showed up," Bob recounted. "It was really discouraging, and it was exhausting putting so much time and effort into it to get nothing back. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, or how I was going to get people interested in this Bible study. Because that's campus ministry, right?"
Shortly after this discouraging week, Bob joined the rest of the Lutheran Indian Ministries staff in Green Lake, Wisconsin for our annual staff retreat, during which time we had the pleasure and blessing of working with Greg Finke of Dwelling 1:14. It was during this week away that Bob began to understand that this first year as the Ministry Leader will be one of trial and error and of learning, and where he began to see a clear direction for the future of the LIGHT House.
"Greg spoke to us about joining Jesus on His mission and the importance of discipling," Bob recalled. "He talked about how God is already doing the mission work, and we can go with Him. The timing could not have been more perfect. It was a huge wake-up call to me and the work of the LIGHT House. It made me realize that my job as the Ministry Leader is all about building relationships and meeting people where they are.
"We have a few students who are interested in an intense Bible study, and we will do one, but we have a lot more students who need a safe place to go and a friendly person to talk to. Eventually, as the relationship grows, opportunities for teaching will happen. But it will happen on God's timing, not mine."
So, a shift has taken place. The LIGHT House is a place of friendly faces and helping hands.
Bob and the rest of the LIGHT House team have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months and ask for your prayers.
Celebrate Recovery will begin meeting at the LIGHT House tonight, and it is pegged for growth.
Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered recovery program that assists people in overcoming their hurts, hang-ups, and habits.
Bob has been in contact with the Haskell Student Rights Department, the office responsible for student disciplinary issues. The department will begin using the LIGHT House Celebrate Recovery as part of their disciplinary process for students caught for drinking and drug abuse.
According to one of the staff members, "We've been waiting for something like this!"
Sacred Grounds will hold a small gathering.
Sacred Ground is Lutheran Indian Ministries' adaptation of the Beauty for Ashes program which addresses trauma and facilitates healing through the telling of one's own story in a safe place.
Bob was trained in Beauty for Ashes in April and, with the help of Rick McCafferty in Anchorage, Alaska, looks forward to helping the Native people of Haskell and Lawrence begin the healing process.
Sunday Dinners and Other Events will continue.
"At the beginning of the school year, I didn't consider these social events a part of our ministry," Bob explained. "They were fun, but I felt like they were just a way to get people in, so we could do the real ministry. But I was amazed at the relationships and ministry possibilities that have come from them."
Bob now tells the story of two people who attended the Welcome Back Bash only because someone had dragged them to it. Within a month, one woman was baptized and a man contacted Bob asking what it meant to give his life to Jesus.
Bob said, "This is discipling. This what we're here for, but it wasn't anything I did. The Holy Spirit put those two people in the right place at the right time. He gave me the words they needed to hear without my knowing it, and I was blessed enough to be the one they asked for more information. It is clear that God has big things in store for the Haskell community, and I'm glad I get to join Him in his work!"