Flying squirrels and life in Kansas : Jesse Owens

Hey BCM family!

My name is Jesse Owen, and I am a junior transfer student majoring in Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Forestry. Here at BCM, I am currently serving as the guy OL for Green Fam.

What have you been up to this summer?

To begin my summer, I rode to Texas with my brother Wyatt who had a summer internship in Dallas. During that short trip, I also got to visit family friends and get a small view into Texas life.

Following the trip to Texas, most of my summer has been spent working as a habitat technician for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at their Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area, which is about 50 miles south of Kansas City. The job has been amazing as I have gained a huge amount of valuable field experience working to improve wildlife habitat, something that I find extremely fulfilling. Highlights of the job have included learning how to conduct prescribed fire, planting over 100 acres of crops for migratory waterfowl, and the opportunity to tag along with researchers while they were conducting a survey on bats.

How have you seen God work recently?

Honestly, God’s providence has been most obvious in how I landed my summer position. Starting in March after my original wildlife related summer internship fell through, I had been applying to wildlife related internships all throughout the Lower 48 and praying that God would provide an opportunity but had no success. By the end of May, I had run out of time in applying for internships, assumed that it wasn’t in His plan for me to get a career-related summer position, and got a job in an unrelated field to earn extra money. I had been working at my last-resort summer job for less than a week when I got an email from a job I had applied for in April, stating that my application had been misplaced after I sent it in and that they would like to interview me for the job. 

Several days went by following my response to that email, I had gotten no confirmation that the hirer still wanted to interview, and I was beginning to panic internally. On that Saturday at about midnight, I was texting a friend about the situation and he gave me the best advice I had gotten so far, which was to calm down and pray about it. Realizing that I had not talked to God at all regarding the issue, I prayed about it then and there. Less than 30 seconds after the prayer, I received an email from the person who would become my future boss, stating that he was still interested to talk to me about the position.

To keep the story brief, I interviewed the next week, was offered the position, said goodbye to friends and family, and was on the road to Kansas within 10 days. In the moment of receiving the email, I totally saw God’s hand working and knew that He still had a plan for what I was to be doing this summer, even if the timing was completely unexpected. It was a great moment and one that I hope I never forget as how special it was to see God working so obviously in my life when I least expected it.

What is something you love about BCM?

The best part about my experience with BCM over the last year has been the community, accountability, and relationships that have come from being with other believers in family groups. The ability to deepen your walk with Christ through small groups is amazingly easy if you’re willing to dive in.

What are you looking forward to in the fall?

In person classes! Since I transferred into VT last August, I haven’t had the “normal” college experience yet. Getting to be around friends I made last year and meeting new people in classes are what I’m looking forward to the most about being back in school. 

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

My biggest piece of advice would be to stay strong in your faith through college and to find a community that will encourage that. When you get that first taste of freedom from parents and loved ones back home it’s easy to stray away from God but staying strong in your faith while in college is well worth it! I am definitely biased, but BCM is a great place to grow your faith at this stage of life. 

What are your favorite things to do in Blacksburg?

The outdoor opportunities around Blacksburg are pretty amazing. Over the last year I’ve made it a point to explore as much as possible through hunting and hiking. In town, I love going on late night milkshake runs with friends and searching for things I don’t need in the many pawn shops and thrift stores that Blacksburg has.

Finding Acceptance and A Mother’s Heart: Deepti Aaron

Hi everybody!! I’m Deepti Aaron and I’m a rising junior studying Industrial and Systems Engineering. I’m also a student leader for BCM! I’m so excited for this upcoming year in Blacksburg and to actually see everyone’s faces! And for the freshmen, I’m so excited to meet you all. This year is going to be filled with an endless amount of stories, laughter, and joy. I can feel it!

Here’s Deepti in her natural habitat!

What are your favorite things to do in Blacksburg?

Blacksburg really is a beautiful place to live with many things to do here, check out the Hokie bucket list if you haven’t already. Everything on that list is great but nothing can beat the advice I’m about to give you. Waffle House. Waffle House offers impeccable cuisine which will make even Gordon Ramsey question his cooking skills. If you haven’t been, go now! I’m from New York so I’m not blessed like you Virginians to have a Waffle House down the street. And always remember all blessings are from God so thank him for all he’s provided 😉

Deepti and her friend Madison with the elusive “Waffle House”.

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

In all seriousness it is important to remember that. Especially for freshmen right now. You’re entering a new season where a lot of change is in store. Each season will have its own struggles and hardships. Change is hard so don’t worry if it takes some time to feel comfortable and confident in this new setting God has placed you in. Yet something to look forward to is that each season will also have its own joys. Take the time to see how God is blessing you during this time.

During my freshman year, it is quite obvious to say, but BCM was a huge blessing to me. When I first came to BCM I was honestly very confused. There were people with varying personalities all getting along with one another. In my high school, this sort of thing never existed. You hung out with the people you were similar to and never thought of interacting with those who were different. This oddity drew me into BCM and has now become one of my favorite things about it.

What is something you love about BCM?

BCM is not trying to diminish the differences but instead acknowledge and celebrate them. God lovingly created us with all of our quirks and weird hobbies. It is so encouraging to see everyone at BCM hold fast to who God has made them to be, unashamed. And even if we are all different, we have common ground in Christ and that is more than enough to form a strong community.

What have you been up to this summer?

During this time of being at home for the summer, I’ve really missed the BCM community. Yet I have been able to find the joy in this season. A few of my friends and I created a Bible study going through women of the Bible. Due to this I learned of the Hebrew word “hesed” during our study of Ruth. Hesed describes an enduring covenant love. It’s a love that never ceases and is self-sacrificing. It goes beyond what is required and is always faithful. It’s a beautiful word and it really captures the essence of God.

Along with capturing who God is, it really captures who my mom is as well.

Since March, my grandma has been living with my parents in New York. She suffered a stroke last summer and lost her ability to speak. Sending her to a nursing home never crossed my mom’s mind. She was determined to take care of my grandmother. My mom comes straight from her 9-5 job to then take care of my grandma. And even on the weekends, she does not have a break. She took up a second job on the weekends to support me and my brothers as we go through college. My mom could easily leave all of this behind. Yet she is not one to give up or stop caring. Hesed is a core value of who she is. She will always go beyond what is required and will always be self-sacrificing.

She learned this from her mother. My grandma lost her husband when she was in her 30s and was left to take care of 5 young kids all on her own. She struggled providing for her family but she never gave up. My mom saw this and learned the quality of hesed. And in turn I’ve seen my mother sacrifice so much and I hope someday I can have the quality of hesed like them. 

God really has been teaching me a lot this summer and I can’t wait to hear how he has been moving in your life during this time as well!

Growth in the Rockies: Moriah Moss

Hello! My name is Moriah Moss, and I am a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech. I’m a Fisheries Management major, Forestry minor, and outreach leader for Red Fam (one of the Bible studies at BCM).

What have you been up to this summer?

This summer, I worked on a trail crew for the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. Through this program, young adults camp, hike to work, and perform trail maintenance all over Colorado and in parts of Utah and Wyoming. Some crews climb giant mountains every day and others work in the desert.

I felt drawn to this job–though I wasn’t quite sure why. I have only camped once in my entire life and have never backpacked. Nevertheless, in early June, my family drove me out to Colorado, and I joined a team of 9, which included my crew leader and assistant crew leader. 

Our first week was spent at orientation with the other ~10 crews. We learned about tools used for trail work and how to complete various tasks. We also swam in a very cold lake, used pit toilets, and heard mountain lion screeches one night. It was definitely an adjustment to learn how to cook for 9 people on a 2-burner propane stove and to be constantly outside in the wind, heat, and cold. 

After orientation, my team headed to our first project assignment at Little Hills State Wildlife Area–AKA the desert. It was incredibly dry, we saw sandy hills for miles, and there was sagebrush everywhere. 

The first weekend was incredibly difficult. All of my crew members used very foul language, and their conversation topics weighed heavily on me. I couldn’t tell when was a good time to speak up or whether it was better to stay quiet. By the time we arrived in a little town called Meeker for “town time,” I was ready to quit. It was a Sunday morning, and I was searching for a church. All I wanted was to sing praises, hear truth, and have someone pray over me. No one on my crew was a Christian, and I desperately needed community. 

Unfortunately, all the services had started by the time I arrived. I was heartbroken and at a complete loss. So worn out. So desperate. I started crying really hard, just bawling as I walked down the street. I asked God why He would lead me out here and then leave me. 

For the first time in my life, I asked God where He was. 

I felt incredibly abandoned. I had no one to turn to, and I couldn’t call anyone because even the gas station phone could only reach the next town over. God had placed me in a position where my dependence on Him was taken to a whole new level. 

When I finally got quiet enough to listen for God, He told me to walk down the street to the nearest church. I stood outside for a minute and then sat down to wait for them to finish their service. I pulled out my Bible and read Psalm 34, one of my all-time favorites, and sang a few hymns softly to myself. I’m sure I looked absolutely ridiculous and likely a little crazy.

The service ended, and I moved towards the doors. I asked where the pastor was and a lady directed me inside. I stood around awkwardly not sure what to do. Finally, a little girl came over and asked if I needed something. I asked to see the pastor and she went to get him. When I finally met him, I started crying all over again. I told him I was a believer in a tough situation and that I just really needed some prayer. Without hesitation, he prayed peace and strength over me. I remember feeling like I could finally breathe. God answered his prayer and imbued me with the courage to thank the pastor and head back to my crew.

I realized why God led me to this job as we approached the second week of work. Once my crew mates discovered I was a Christian, they started asking me a great deal of questions. We had long, intense discussions about theology, God’s sovereignty, judgement, punishment, Hell, the Church, Jesus, and Christian beliefs. I was amazed at how bold their questions became and how eager they were to hear my thoughts. 

It was challenging to field so many questions; in answering one question, I would spark a new one and be interrupted. I was exhausted from trying to keep my answers clear, concise, and true to the Bible. I was, again, forced to rely on God on a whole new level. 

One night, a girl on my crew told me she really admired my faith and how I held to it. Then she asked if it bothered me that other members made fun of me for being a Christian. I told her I knew they were rejecting Christ instead of me–a statement I’d heard in church and read in Scripture but never really known to be true until that moment. I really did see, through the Spirit’s perspective, that when my crew members avoided me, they were avoiding confronting Christ and hard truths. From that perspective, God helped me extend grace to them. 

Eventually, my crew headed to the mountains of Colorado, where the rest of my team is still working (I unfortunately had to cut my time short due to dietary restrictions). In the mountains, we hauled massive wood beams down a perpetually wet and slippery trail, dug up and hauled rocks, and debarked several felled trees. It was exhausting labor, and I really struggled during the hauling process. I was also battling stomach problems exacerbated by the stress of dealing with them in the woods.

However, I learned more about being a living testimony in those few weeks than I ever thought possible. God gave me compassion for my team. I deeply care about each of them. The only reason I did not leave Colorado sooner than I did was because I wanted to speak truth to my crew and be an ambassador of the Gospel and show them God’s unconditional love by loving them without expecting anything in return.

I remember the exact moment I was completely certain I was just where God wanted me. I had to quit work after half a day and was sitting at camp alone. Another crew member had contracted altitude sickness and was being taken down the mountain to the hospital. I didn’t really think but just asked her point blank if I could pray for her (This was the same crew member who had asked me earlier if the teasing bothered me). She said sure,and I knelt to do just that. It felt so good to cry out to God out loud. Later, she told me that she really appreciated me doing that for her, and I was so grateful that the Spirit gave me the courage to do it. 

I experienced so, so much during my time with RMYC, and I’m excited to see how God will continue to work the rest of this summer. If you want to hear more about my trip and God’s work along the way, I’d love to talk with you! 

What are you looking forward to in the fall?

This fall, I am most excited for more in person events, especially larger BCM gatherings. One of the things I love most about BCM is the community and accountability (I know, everyone says that, but it’s true!). I have definitely missed diving into the Word there and can’t wait to do that soon! I have also missed Blacksburg–I really enjoy walking around campus and downtown. I highly recommend walking through Stadium Woods (behind the Washington Street tennis courts).

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

Two more notes for incoming freshmen. One, everyone’s college experience is different, so accept tips and pointers, but don’t become so attached to one thing or another that your expectations limit your enjoyment. Two, it is soooo important to get plugged into ministry, so please make it a priority. Investing in your faith is investing in your eternity and the eternity of those you witness to.

Thanks for reading about my experiences; I pray God can use them to encourage you!

A Summer in Blacksburg: Caleb Duniver

Hi, my name is Caleb Duniver, and I’m an incoming Junior in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. I’m also currently a Discipleship Leader in Red Family.

What have you been up to this summer?

This summer, I have been hanging around Blacksburg so that I can avoid being bored back home in Stafford County, VA and so that I can enjoy the scenery while taking my online summer class. I have been doing things I normally like doing during the school year, such as watching movies, hiking on nearby mountain trails, walking the Huckleberry trail, playing basketball, going bowling at the Superbowl, and cooking new recipes. I have also taken several trips, which I do not get to do as often during the school year. I traveled to NYC on a short trip to watch my younger brother’s basketball training, and I went to West Virginia in order to visit a waterfall, explore the capital city of Charleston, and fulfill a friend’s dream to visit a Tim Horton’s. In addition, I was able to go to the beautiful Natural Bridge area to visit Dinosaur Kingdom, which gave me the opportunity to have a water fight with bigfoot ( I wish I had gotten a picture of that moment) and see wacky dinosaur sculptures and works of art that were named using masterful puns.

How have you seen God work recently?

I have seen God work recently in the Church through the ways my churches have adapted and preserved during the pandemic. At my small church back home, the church leaders did their best to transition to the ambience of a regular church service over Zoom. Even though it wasn’t the same, it was a great way to connect with other church members, and the feeling of fellowship and community was still there. New locals attended our online church services, and church members had the opportunity to invite friends and family from other parts of the country to fellowship with us, which could not have happened before the pandemic as easily. At BCM, I have seen God work through the people that walk through its doors. His work was particularly apparent last year during the pandemic. I watched leaders and staff build a welcoming community and stay active during a time when neither was easy, and individual members participated actively in family groups and fellowship opportunities with other BCMers outside the ministry building. At Northstar Church, which I started attending in Blacksburg towards the end of the pandemic, I saw the diligent work the staff and its members put into outreach to the Blacksburg community in addition to the effort they put into each Sunday worship service. They also invested heavily in making everyone feel welcome, plugging people in, and bringing newcomers into their church family. 

What is something you love about BCM?

For the past two years, attending BCM has improved my personal relationship with Christ. Before college, I struggled with giving my time to God in private, and I didn’t always have a group of Christians my age during high school who were going through the same walk as I was and could hold me accountable. In contrast, BCM has given me a community of peers to keep me accountable and encourage me along my walk with Christ. Attending BCM has also helped me improve my ability to communicate with other people, which has helped me talk to people I would not have talked to or developed a relationship with beforehand.

What are you looking forward to in the fall?

This fall, I’m looking forward to going back to a sense of normalcy, particularly having a lot more face-to-face interactions on campus in classes, at study places, and within dining halls. I’m also excited to meet new people who enter BCM’s doors and to see the new members of our community.

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

My advice to incoming freshmen is to not expect your college experience to be the same as everyone else’s experience. While one person may be able to easily stick with one career path for all four years, you may have multiple career changes and spend an extra year in college, or you might realize along the way that you want to pursue a career path that doesn’t require a full college education. God has a reason for you to attend college. You might not see that purpose for a long time, but you need to trust the plan he has for you. Pray and persevere through the rough periods of your future college experience so you can find joy even within the most difficult of situations. Other than that, I wish all incoming freshmen good luck, and I hope you find dependable friends to enjoy your college years with.

Summer Spotlight: Madison Smith

Hello! My name is Madison Smith, and I’m the girls’ discipleship leader for Orange Family! I’m going into my third (and final) year at Virginia Tech, majoring in Computational Modeling and Data Analytics (or CMDA for short).

What have you been up to this summer?

This summer, I’ve been working with Compassion International as their Data Operations summer intern, developing code to ensure data security. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to apply the skills I’ve learned from my major to serve such an amazing ministry. 

Aside from interning, I’ve spent almost all my free time with BCM friends, eating together, playing games, and watching movies (in that order). I’ve also had a lot of fun studying Acts in BCM’s summer bible study and studying women of the Bible in a virtual bible study with some of my closest college friends pictured below:

How have you seen God work recently?

Although many complain about the time they lost due to our past year in COVID, I’ve seen how God has multiplied my time, allowing me to spend time with people. Because of virtual classes, I was able to go home and spend time with my mom for Mother’s Day. Since my internship is remote, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with friends from BCM and make new friends. One of the most exciting parts of my summer in Blacksburg was receiving a surprise visit from my roommate and spending an amazing 2-weeks with her!

What is something you love about BCM?

I know everyone will say “the people” in some capacity, including me, but there’s plenty of reasons why. It’s great to be part of a truly loving, Christ-centered community. Everyone that’s a part of BCM is excited to learn from one another and pour into one another. No matter how well or how little you know a person from BCM, you can count on them to go to any length to help you out. I could write much more extensively about how great this community is, but you have to come experience it first-hand to understand how amazingly out-of-the-ordinary it is. 

What are you looking forward to in the fall?

I’m looking forward to meeting more people. I only experienced 1 1/2 semesters and roughly 2 months of BCM pre-COVID, so while I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to build deep, quality relationships, I haven’t had the chance to meet and spend time with so many people inside and outside of BCM.

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

Obviously, you’re going to experience a lot of changes. Some you may anticipate, like living in a dorm for the first time; but some you may not, like constantly changing friend groups as you try to find your place. When life feels unstable, remember that there’s a stable God, with unchanging promises for your life and an unchanging love for you. 

What are your favorite things to do in Blacksburg? 

Go to coffee shops. I actually don’t like coffee, but there’s a lot of great coffee shops in Blacksburg that serve other delicious drinks and food. They’re great places to hang out with friends or study when you need a change of scenery from your desk or the library.

Looking forward to meeting everyone soon! See you in the fall!

Summer Spotlights: Hunter Blankenship

Hey BCM! My name is Hunter Blankenship; I’m a senior studying Industrial and Systems Engineering, and I am part of the CL team for the BCM. I’m from Woodbridge, Virginia, so I’m a classic NOVA Hokie. My dessert of choice would be caramel cheesecake, and my favorite cereal is Honey Nut Cheerios. Feel free to ask me about disc golf and ultimate frisbee, my two sports of choice!

What have you been up to this summer?

This summer I’ve been hard at work doing Data Analytics with the AAMC, the organization famous for their role in producing the MCAT (medical school entrance exam). I’ve been working remotely from home, and will continue the job into the fall of this year. My weekends are filled with relaxing outdoors, disc golf, ultimate frisbee groups and leagues, and watching the various international soccer tournaments.

How have you seen God work recently?

In regards to how God has been working: firstly, God blessed me tremendously with the internship of this summer. For a while in the spring, I was unsure of what the summer entailed. I even waited on an offer to see what God had planned for me, and this job came out of nowhere for me. I’ve absolutely loved my team and work, which is second on the list. God has been working in my conversations with my team members, and there is still so much work to be done. Finally, God has been cultivating my family relationships, and I hope to deepen those even more as time goes on.

What is something you love about BCM?

My favorite part about the BCM is the close-knit, family-like connections made in small groups. The men in my groups have been integral in supporting me through all of my endeavors, and have also shown new ways to view and change my walk with God. Also, the worship team at the BCM does a fantastic job in all that they do, which is another favorite area of mine (don’t tell Kasey I said such nice things about her and her team).

What are you looking forward to in the fall?

I’m really looking forward to being fully in-person in school, but that also extends to the BCM and sports! Nothing beats a packed 6:33, although a packed Cassell Coliseum might come close. I know all of this may sound cliché, but I truly have missed the in-person connection!

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

To the incoming freshmen: try as many sports, clubs, or organizations as you need. Find a family and friends in both a faith-based aspect as well as a fun activity aspect. Lay your roots down in an environment that will help nurture and grow you and your faith! As well, PARTICIPATE IN BCM EVENTS! So many people do an awesome job at creating the best possible events for the BCM family, and I am sure they will help foster relationships and deepen connections.

Hunter definitely at Cabo.

What are your favorite things to do in Blacksburg?

For my favorite things to do in Blacksburg: play disc golf! Of course this is the first thing on the list. There are some great courses around the area that are tons of fun. Second: go hiking! Blacksburg and the surrounding area have some great hikes at a variety of difficulties, so get out and hike. Lastly: eat at Cabo! This is always the place I take visitors to when they’re in town, so take advantage of a fantastic place to eat while you’re in Blacksburg!

Summer Spotlights: Ashleigh Yanoscsik

Hi everyone! My name is Ashleigh Yanoscsik and I’m a rising junior majoring in meteorology. (possibly doubling in geography, we’ll see!) I’m also the gal discipleship leader for Silver Fam. In this post, I’ll be talking about things I’ve loved about my summer, BCM, and VT. Without further ado, let’s begin!

From left to right: Deepti, Madison, Ashleigh, and Hannah.

What have you been up to this summer?

Well, you know…storm chasing. From June 28-July 8, I took part in the 2021 Hokie Storm Chase! I was originally supposed to go in 2020, but sadly, I had to “storm chase” from the comfort of my living room due to COVID. When I heard that we had the all clear to go in 2021, I was ecstatic. We happened to venture out west during a more quiet pattern, but as Hokies do best, we defied the odds and intercepted some incredible sights/storms. It’d easily take me a day to recount the whole trip, so I’ll share just a couple of my favorite memories.

Favorite Memory #1: Supercell in Boone, CO on July 1st

This was our first big chase day. After waiting for storms to fire, we finally headed west from Lamar, CO in pursuit of a cell that was beginning to strengthen east of Pueblo. I was riding shotgun in our third van, and I remember looking out to my right to see a monster shelf cloud as we got closer to it. Once we were in a good position, all of us got out and were taking pictures when we noticed a wall cloud starting to form. Right after we noticed that, all of our phones went off with a tornado warning. All I could think to myself was, “We did it.” We had intercepted a tornado-warned supercell on a day with no severe risk in Colorado. I still have chills from that moment. Though the storm never produced a tornado from our vantage point, the storm derailed several train cars and produced baseball sized hail.

Favorite Memory #2: 4th of July

After jumping from storm to storm in northern Texas for most of the day, we finally latched onto a supercell just west of Adrian, TX. I remember shooting pictures out of the van window and just being mesmerized by its structure. After stopping to take pictures of the storm, we decided to hunker down at a gas station and let it roll over us. The worst of the storm (baseball sized hail and 70-80 mph winds) fortunately missed us by half a mile. After the storm passed, we came out of the gas station to a full, double rainbow in the field and a gorgeous sunset. To top it all off, thanks to switching time zones, we even made it to our stop in Tucumcari, NM for the night in time for their fireworks display.

I’m incredibly thankful for everyone on the crew this year, and especially our three leaders: my professor, Dave Carroll, and VT met alums, Alex Thornton and Aaron Swiggett. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I’ll never forget it.

Before the storm chase, I had been doing some local storm chasing on my own, and exploring some walking trails near my hometown. Since then, I’ve been cranking out Physics 2, and will be singing on the worship team at Northstar in the coming weeks!

How have you seen God work recently?

I’ll have to use the storm chase as an anecdote for this one. Prior to the trip, I hadn’t made very many friends in my major, especially since COVID began. I made some really good bonds with those on the crew, and I actually have people that I’d feel comfortable talking to in my classes now. Gaining some meteorology friends had been an ongoing prayer of mine, so it was incredible to see the Lord work in those two weeks we all spent together.

What is something you love about BCM?

I just love how everyone is so inclusive and has a heart to love others like Jesus. I noticed that from the moment I stepped into the building for my first 6:33. You can ask the BCM group chat if anyone wants to do things, even simple things like going for a walk on campus, and you’ll almost always get some takers. It’s awesome to see that. Heck, I even had a few folks drive all the way from Blacksburg to go to Busch Gardens back in June.

What are you looking forward to in the fall?

Football, and basketball! I can’t wait to be jumping to Enter Sandman again. Fun fact for those who didn’t know: they aren’t kidding when they say that the earth shakes. One year, the shaking registered on a seismograph all the way in Fredericksburg! I’m also super excited to go back to in-person classes and to make more connections with my classmates/professors.

What advice would you like to share with incoming freshmen?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. It’s so easy to try to make a good first impression with people you meet and as you’re trying to make new friends. This will probably sound cheesy, but the truth is that those who care about you will love and appreciate you for who you are. I’ve certainly met many of those people at BCM. Also, don’t look both ways when crossing over to the Drillfield; it’s one way. (Pssst, don’t tell anyone…I still accidentally do it sometimes.)

What are your favorite things to do in Blacksburg?

Hiking is definitely one of them! We have lots of amazing hikes near Blacksburg, including but not limited to Bald Knob, McAfee’s Knob, Cascades, and Dragon’s Tooth. It’s a great way to get some exercise or burn off some stress during midterms/finals. I also love to go thrifting at Goodwill and Plato’s Closet with my friends. You can find some really good outfits for a cheap price!

I hope you all have enjoyed getting to know a bit more about me and my summer! Praying that you all have had a blessed summer so far, and I can’t wait to see everyone in the fall!

We Would Not Trade It

2020 was a tough year. Almost every conversation seemed to include some joke or comment about how much we could not wait for it to be over. As the months passed though, we started noticing that there were good things throughout the year. We began to see how God had been working, and it made us realize that, despite the hardships, we would not trade 2020 for anything. 

There are two big things we learned in 2020 that we want to highlight today. We hope you find them encouraging.

  1. God Still Does Miracles
  2. God Uses the “Bad” for Good

Disclaimer: For those who do not know us, we are twins. So yes, this blog post is supposed to be in the plural, and yes, it is longer than some others. There are two people’s worth of words we have to communicate 😂.

Reagan and Delaney Snead

God Still Does Miracles

Our journey with COVID-19 did not really start until June 2020. Like most Americans, we had worn masks, social distanced, limited social interactions, canceled summer plans, and adjusted to online work since late March, but COVID-19 was not truly real to us in a physical sense. We knew it was a genuine threat, but by the middle of the summer, we still did not know anyone who had suffered through it. It had not touched the people we loved. On Friday, June 26, that changed. We received a phone call from our grandfather that our grandmother was running a fever and they had both been tested for COVID-19. By Monday, both of their tests had returned positive. Our grandmother was admitted to the hospital a few days later. 

At this time, both of us were working virtually at our apartment in Blacksburg, but we were planning on going home to celebrate the 4th of July. Unfortunately, on July 2, our parents called to tell us not to come home because they were starting to feel bad as well. Within the span of two weeks, our grandparents, parents, and brother all contracted COVID-19. 

While our brother, parents, and grandfather recovered relatively quickly, our grandmother did not. She continued to decline and had to be put on a ventilator on July 7, which she remained on for two months. During this period, she even coded (her heart stopped) and it took almost fifteen minutes for the doctors to resuscitate her. It was a very scary time. By July 10, the doctors predicted that she would not survive, and they said that even if she did, she would never recover close to her previous strength.

Our whole family remained glued to our phones over the weekend, fearing the worst. On July 13, we were told that her body was shutting down and she likely would not survive the next 36 hours. We spent the next two days waiting, but we never received the dreaded phone call. Somehow, she miraculously pulled through. Over the next few days, she started improving. The doctors and nurses told us not to get our hopes up yet because many COVID-19 victims start improving only to decline again. However, our grandmother never did. She had setbacks, but from July 13 forward, she steadily recovered. The nurses in the ICU called her their miracle. 

It has been a long road of healing. Between her time in the hospital and living in rehab, she spent a total of three months away from home. Even now, seven months later, she has not completely recovered. In all likelihood, she will be on oxygen for the rest of her life. However, she has made significant progress. She can stand on her own, climb stairs, and visit family. Most importantly, she is alive. God did the impossible and spared her life. 

Our grandmother soon after coming home.

He did not stop there though. While COVID-19 almost killed our grandmother, God used it to save our uncle. Because of past heart issues, our uncle is very high risk. As a result, when his company started resuming some in-person functions over the summer, he requested to remain online. The company agreed but asked for a “doctor’s note.” When he went to his cardiologist to acquire one, his doctor discovered that his heart was failing. 

He was sent to the ICU and was told that without intervention, he had only a year left to live. His only hope was to get a heart transplant. This occurred while our grandmother was still in the ICU, so he kept it a secret to avoid adding an extra burden to the rest of our family. As soon as she started recovering though, he told everyone. One family crisis shifted to another. In this case though, COVID-19 sped the process because it limited transplant surgeries to those like our uncle whose lives were on the line. He was placed on the transplant list and received a new heart within two months of his initial examination. This is ridiculously fast. There is typically a minimum six month waiting period for a new heart, and numerous people do not survive the wait. Again, God provided. 

If you are like us, you often find it hard to imagine God performing miracles in your life. We know God can perform them, but it seems like something he only did in the past or reserves for others. We knew He could, but why would He? So many others had lost loved ones recently, and God did not intervene. What would make us different? 

The answer: nothing. We did not “earn” the miracle through fervent prayer or godly living. If anything, we should have been disqualified for our failures in both of those areas, but we were not. He gave us two miracles as gifts. Why did we get them when others did not? We will probably never know. We are just choosing to rejoice in His blessing and trust in His plan.

Though painful, these two experiences changed us. In the future, even while we surrender our desires to His plan, we will cling more tightly to the hope that He will perform miracles in our lives. We hope our story encourages you to do the same. God can and DOES still perform miracles, so keep praying expectantly. He may perform the next one for you.

Mom, Grandmother, and Aunt (Left to Right) in November

God Uses the “Bad” for Good

The second truth we realized is that God can use “bad” periods to produce “good.” COVID-19 has been hard. Millions of people have died since the virus emerged a year ago. Thousands of Americans have lost jobs. Students lost valuable time with instructors and missed graduations. Family members have been forced to remain apart to protect each other.

None of it has been easy. We have struggled with confusion and anger just as many of you probably have. We have missed friends and grown frustrated with the inconveniences of social distancing and limiting gatherings. At times, we even turned to God and cried out in anger and confusion: Why did you allow this to happen? Why have you separated us from our friends? Why have you taken away our last year to play music in college? Why do we feel so “limited?”

In those moments though, God was still faithful. He listened to our questions and let us cry and rail. He acknowledged our pain, but when we were spent, He lifted our chins, pointed, and said, “I know this hurts, but look what I have given you.” It was hard to see at first. All we saw were the friends who did not return to Tech and the graduation, worship services, concerts, and BCM socials we were supposed to have this year but will never get to enjoy.

As the months passed, however, we eventually started to see the blessings He was pointing to. He pointed to our roommates and the special moments we have had with them this semester. He gestured to our friend Maddi from high school that we were able to reconnect with. He indicated our Among Us game nights that we have enjoyed with our brother, cousins, and a few friends. He directed our gaze to how intentional our bible studies have been. In short, He showed us His blessings.

In looking back on this year, we can finally see clearly the good God has wrought in the hardship. We would not give up this year, even if it meant we could avoid the pandemic and the pain it has caused us. The blessings God gave us far outweigh the trials. 

2020 Blessings

  1. Roommates 

For those of you who do not know, we live with two other amazing roommates: Kirsten Anderson and Kendall Staunton. They were by far the largest blessing we received from COVID-19. We started living with them in the fall of 2019 and had a great year getting to know them. Since we are all introverts, it took some time for us to grow comfortable with each other, but we cherished each moment. We bonded over the enneagram (if you do not know what that is feel free to ask one of us), shared meals, and late night conversations. We were overjoyed when Kirsten left a short note on each of our desks a few weeks into the fall semester, and we loved the mornings when Kendall decided to bake crepes or pancakes for us to share. Over the course of our first year together, we became friends, and we cannot praise God enough for His goodness.

Little did we know though, He still had more in store. When we all returned for the fall of 2020, we hit the ground running. We watched the first two Harry Potter movies before classes started and then watched the last six within the first eight days of the semester. By the end of the week, we had created a movie list on our whiteboard that included all of the Star Wars movies, the Sound of Music, and Hamilton, among many others. Thus began our tradition of Sunday evening movie nights. Every week after church, we grab dinner and then sit down to watch a movie together. No matter how busy we are or what might have happened that week, we set aside those couple of hours to spend together. 

Because of the pandemic and the resulting online classes, we all spent more time at the apartment too. This resulted in more impromptu conversations as well as more planned time together. Since we would not be eating on campus as much, we created a weekly calendar on our whiteboard so each of us could pick a day to make dinner for the apartment. It started as a way for us all to eat home cooked meals every night without having to cook all the time, but it turned into another time of fellowship that we have come to treasure dearly.

We are not just people who live together anymore. We are not even just lifelong friends. We are family. God is so, so good!

Roommate Winter Picture

2. Revitalizing Old Friendships

God used COVID-19 to draw us closer to others as well. Over spring break last year, we met with Maddi, one of our old high school friends, to catch up and discuss the very vague possibility of COVID-19 moving our classes online. Two days later, Tech sent an email announcing just that. We were shocked and immediately started texting each other to process what that would mean for us and our bible studies. Our friend had been doing a study at her church, but it was canceled for the immediate future until her church could figure out a way to meet safely. As a result, we decided to go through Acts together.

We started meeting a few weeks after spring break, and we met each week over zoom for the rest of the semester to discuss a chapter (or parts of one) at a time. Over the summer and the following fall semester, we had to be more flexible, but we continued to meet every few weeks. We finally finished on January 17, 2021. (Yes, we realize we took over nine months to go through 28 chapters. Do not judge. 😂) Though COVID-19 has separated us from many friends, these meetings helped us restore our old relationship with Maddi and connect on a deeper level than we ever had before. Once again, God brought good out of the darkness.

3. Zoom 

Yes, we just identified zoom as a blessing. Bear with us. We all groan a lot about the excessive screen time and missing face-to-face interaction, but do you realize how amazing it is that we can literally see people who are hundreds of miles away? Our parents could only talk to our grandparents for an hour every week after we were born because of the cost for long-distance phone calls. In elementary school, our parents did not even have cell phones. Now, we have Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom, all of which allow us to see people who are far away. Yes, it is not the same as face to face, but it has given us opportunities we would not have had just fifteen years ago. 

We have the privilege of attending classes online and maintaining long-distance friendships. We had the chance to hold bible studies with people living in different cities, and we had the opportunity to learn new ways of connecting with others. In trying to discover ways to socialize virtually, we also realized we could play games online with our brother and cousins who were still at home. As a result, we started holding Among Us game nights over Zoom (and then Discord) as a way to spend time together. COVID-19 actually helped us discover how to spend more time with our family while away at college.

4. So Many More

These only scratch the surface of the blessings God bestowed upon us during 2020. There are numerous others, including time to rest, new research opportunities, vulnerable bible study discussions, and Maroon Family Hangouts. All of these demonstrate God’s abundant provision, abounding love, and overflowing grace. God is with us and watching over us, and He delights in blessing His children (Matthew 7:9-11).

Family Fun at the Orchard: (From Left to Right) Delaney, our brother Darel, and Reagan

This is not to say that “good” always means happiness or success. Rather “good” can mean spiritual growth, such as learning to trust God when our plans fall apart or recognizing idols in our lives. In reality, God’s ultimate purpose is to conform us to His image (not fulfill all our desires), and that only occurs through our sanctification, which is often hard. Though 2020 was in many ways the most difficult year of our lives, it was “good” to us because God taught us more about Himself.

Conclusion

In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to keep many people alive.” In many ways, COVID-19 is like Joseph’s brothers. It has hurt many of us, but it has also brought about much good. God used it to reveal His power as a miracle worker, to remind us to look for His blessings, and to teach us to trust Him. It is our hope that in sharing the good God brought about in our lives that we might help you see the good in yours. We know we have been forever changed for the better by 2020. Have you?

New Year, New You?

These people help me become a new person each day

I was texting worship leader extraordinaire Kasey Socks about top-secret worship leader things the other day, and she asked me a question that no one has asked me yet this year – “Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?” (She, btw, wants to read 40(!) books) My gut reaction was, “Psh, no. I’m not one of those people who makes resolutions only to give up on them in 2 weeks.”

But as I thought about it more, I realized that I kind of did make some resolutions. Just the other day, I consolidated my reading list into books I want to make sure I read this year. And I consciously decided that I want to run 600 miles this year. So…I did make resolutions and I didn’t even realize it.

Have you ever wondered why New Year’s Eve is such a big deal? There’s nothing magically different about January 1st, at after. Or why we get excited on the first day of summer? Or, if you ask any graduate, why the start of semesters hurts so much when you are sitting in an office and nothing changes for you?

Time Square New Year’s shenanigans. (Credit: balldrop.com)

At the heart of these realities is something I believe to be inherently true about people: we are looking for a fresh start. Being broken by sin, our hearts yearn for a new beginning, some turning point to go in a new direction.

The Bible is full of this kind of language. In the midst of their misery, the prophets yearned for God to do something new. And God told them that he was, and that he would:

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. (Isa. 43:19)

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah. (Jer. 31:31)

And notice the New Testament tells us that in Christ, we are new and can have a new life:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:17)

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)

This is how we kicked off new school years back in the old days.

As the calendar turned, we all hoped 2021 would be different. But then the capitol was stormed and Covid is still raging. And still, as the Bible beckons us to look ahead, we find God promising a day when things will be new:

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5)

Why am I throwing these Bible verses at you? Because I want to encourage you to lean into that hope and expectation that you feel when the calendar turns to a new year. I believe that it is the cry of our hearts to not only hope for something new, but to act accordingly. So don’t just think, “Wow, 2021 has got to be better.” If we just hope for the world to improve, we will certainly be disappointed. Instead, decided to join God in doing a new thing in your life this year. Maybe you could…

  • Decide to read the Bible every day
  • Seek help for your mental health
  • Reconcile a friendship gone wrong
  • Be a consistent Bible study/churchgoer
  • Become a praying person
  • Confess sin struggles to someone you trust
  • Exercise 3 times a week
  • Have a more stable/regular sleep schedule
  • Prioritize school less and people more
  • Read some books for your spiritual health (I have ideas!)

Like all things, you can’t do this alone. You can’t simply decide, “Hmm I think I’ll become a praying person,” and then watch it magically happen. You need to (1) have a plan to make this happen and (2) be immersed in Christian community who knows about your goal.

Community = pretty important

A new year could in fact mean a new you, not in a self-helpy, things have got to get better kind of way. The newness we can hope for is the kind that God tells us is possible. He promises us wholeness and freedom. He tells us that we can be new people if we walk with the Spirit in community. Take some steps to walk in the newness of life that God is offering you!

Advent – Peace

Peaceful is probably the last word that I would use to describe the past year. In fact, many nights this year I’ve lost sleep wondering how to interact with a world that feels so hostile, so angry, so upset and in no way shape or form, peaceful. From politics, to public health, to racial injustice, to ideological battles and social media skirmishes, nowhere that I run to is safe for connection and security… maybe aside from our weekly routine of watching the Mandalorian with my significant other. I’ve battled my own inner demons that want to tell me that I’m wrong or bad, should be worried or scared about one thing or another on and off since March. My world, both internally and externally, no longer feels safe.

Yet, an oracle in Isaiah 4:6 says this about the expected messiah: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Prince of Peace.  Our Messiah, the savior of the world, our Jesus, the one who became like us in the form of bodily flesh is the prince of Peace. Yet, there is no peace. What could this mean?

At the time of Jesus’ arrival, there also was no peace for the Israelites. There was heavy oppression by the Roman government. Based on the oracle in Isaiah and plenty other references in Old Testament scripture, the Jewish people were anticipating a ruler, a King, a governmental authority to restore peace again to the world. He would be a wonderful counselor, mighty God and everlasting Father, similar to but greater than the famous King David. Perhaps, that’s why in confusion, John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “is it you? Or should we be expecting someone else?”

Politics and governmental oversight aren’t all bad, but I’ve found myself many times looking to them this year to solve the unrest that I see in the world… putting my hope in them to make sense of the chaos that surrounds me. If this guy were only president we wouldn’t be where we are today… if this man weren’t president, maybe we wouldn’t be where we are today, if we had only done this, maybe we would have peace… the list goes on, constantly searching for what our hearts truly long for: a trusted savior that will bring peace. 

The Jewish people had in their minds very similar thoughts as Jesus arrived. If our messiah would only do x, y or z for us, we would be saved, triumph over Rome and we would have peace. However, he brought peace in the most unusual of ways… not through the power of an army, sword, conquering kingdoms or government power, but through meekness, humility and vulnerability. He took the form of a traveling carpenter who taught ways of a new Kingdom that “is not from this world” (John 18:36). He brought peace through transformative individual acts of restoring creation to its original healthy order through healing those who were sick, caring for the poor and the needy, declaring freedom for the captives and forgiving sins, all without formal government or structural power. 

Our Prince of Peace enacted and lived out life in the Kingdom that DOES bring peace, something he even verbalized as he healed the sick (Luke 7:50, 8:48). He embodied it, lived it, transformed creation around Him and touched the lives of the human beings which he so dearly loved. 

Therefore, in my own time of unrest, I remember that I too, belong to a Kingdom that is not from this world. Though I am thankful for aspects of the government that I live under, I am more thankful for the Kingdom principles that I live under that are perfect and bring life and peace in every situation… principles I have the power to fill my mind with and embody as a continued disciple of Jesus. As I finish out this advent season, I am challenging myself to fill my mind with the Kingdom of God, the one ushered in by the perfect Prince of Peace whose birth and arrival we are celebrating in this season. 

Join me this week by following along on instagram (@bcmvt) for ways to meditate on how to be a peacemaker with the principles of the Kingdom of God in the same way that Jesus was.

John 20:19-21: 

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”