VT Eats and Treats: Mezeh

It’s Friday so that means food is on the blog. Today we hear from rising senior, Meredith Brooks!

Mezeh deliciousness

Wait. Another food article? Is this the Food Network?  No. It’s much better. This is about Mezeh. 

But first, I’ll back it up and tell you about myself. My name is Meredith Brooks. I am a senior (let’s not talk about it) and am majoring in Packaging Systems and Design. I’m a huge foodie. Basically half my camera roll is… food. 

Okay funny story. So I was adopted from China when I was about 1 year old, and when my mom brought me back to the US, I ate so much food that she thought I had a tapeworm and took me to the doctor to check it out. The doctor tested me and promptly told her, “No, she doesn’t have a tapeworm – she’s just hungry.” 

And so began my love for food. 

Which brings me back to Mezeh. If you haven’t tried Mezeh yet, I will personally take you there. No joke. 

Meredith taking food gathering into her own hands

It is a Mediterranean place similar to CAVA if you have heard of that. They serve you in a Chipotle-style fashion, and they give you the options of a pita pocket, bowl, or flatbread wrap. You pick the greens, protein, toppings, and sauce. Also, they have super cool juices and a soda machine that legit never works. 

I personally only ever get bowls because it comes with pita and you can pile on the toppings and make it into two meals if you want. If you have been with me before, you know I basically get everything possible shoved into my bowl and then proceed to eat the whole thing. 

Okay cool. Mediterranean food. What makes it so great? 

Well first, it is so fresh and healthy! They have so so many toppings, most of them being vegetables. My favorites are the eggplant and the spicy feta. After eating a whole bowl of Mezeh, I feel full, but I know that it was actually pretty healthy. 

Second, as I said before, you can get two meals out of it if you really want to. I have done it before but usually don’t since I have no control when I eat Mezeh.

Third, it is better than CAVA. I gave in over the summer and tried it for the first time because there is sadly no Mezeh where I live. However, I can now say for sure that Mezeh is better. CAVA has a much smaller variety of toppings, and overall is just not as flavorful. 

From left to right: Brita, Meredith, and Zach, probably debating the merits of CAVA vs. Mezeh

Fourth, Mezeh promotes healthy COVID behaviors with takeout options and has good deals like BOGO, which I will fully take advantage of as soon as I step foot back in Blacksburg.  

Fifth, they have a mediocre rewards program. This is, in fact, a reason that Mezeh is good because while it takes forever to get a reward, if you go there every week, the points add up and you might as well get a reward if you’re going!

Honestly, the only negative thing I have to say about Mezeh is it is a bit pricey. However, it is 100% worth it. 

Hopefully you now feel inspired to try Mezeh and also can rest in the fact that after naming numerous things he found to be meaningless, Solomon still manages to say, “Go, eat your food with gladness” in Ecclesiastes 9:7. 

Honoring God Through Dating

Today’s blog is written by rising senior, Kirsten Anderson. The topic is one we all deal with – the puzzle of learning to honor God in our romantic relationships. As you read, you will hear her honest, vulnerable journey with respect to these things. Enjoy!

Kirsten Anderson = thumbs up in an apple orchard

I grew up in a nominally Christian home where we attended church once every few months (if that), my parents said prayers with me before bed occasionally, and I went to Catholic school. For reasons I’m sure God had planned from the beginning, my parents decided to go to a Baptist church down the road because of a New Year’s Resolution they’d made. We went every week and soon I was involved with the youth group as well. Shortly after I turned 15, I began my intentional walk with Christ. I was learning so much about the Bible, how to love, and how to share the Gospel (our Youth Pastor had a knack for evangelism). I was incredibly excited to learn things and reading old Bible stories that were new to me was nothing short of amazing. God felt so near, and it was awesome! Looking back, I can see how God was laying a strong foundation of head knowledge for the day my heart would be tested.

Kirsten on a high school mission trip

My high school days were quite lonely because I had no close friends. I wasn’t invited to do much with my school peers because I didn’t drink, nor could I relate with many in the youth group because they had very different lives from me. One day I met a guy from a different school who was nice, also ran cross country and, well, talked to me. After a few months of friendship, he started to like me, and I was still lonely, so I let our developing friendship continue to the “talking” phase. My rationale was, “why not?”

“At this point I knew I was living in my sin but felt too guilty to bring myself before a holy God. How could I pray to Him when He knew what I was doing?”

Kirsten Anderson

If I could talk to my past self, I would have a long list of reasons why not. I recall having a conversation with myself, convincing myself it was okay to emotionally date him. “I guess I can see myself with him,” “he’s not that ugly,” “I don’t deserve better,” “Nobody else will ever notice me,” “he says he’s a Christian so it’s okay,” “he has pretty eyes,” and “he’s going to be a doctor someday” were the top of my many reasons. For the first time in my walk with Christ, I ignored the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Emotional dating eventually turned into real dating. By the beginning of my freshman year of college, I was emotionally and mentally abused, physically taken advantage of, mostly numb to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and sad much of the time. Dear reader, if you take nothing else from this blog: “why not?” is not a good enough reason to give your heart away! I was adamant about not having sex before marriage because I knew it was a sin. However, I did not understand God’s intent behind that command, so I found myself doing just about everything else with him physically. At this point I knew I was living in my sin but felt too guilty to bring myself before a holy God. How could I pray to Him when He knew what I was doing? He was surely disappointed in me. He would never love me as much as He once had. I was forever tainted. Right?

Another shot of Kirsten on mission in high school

When I came to VT, finding a Christian community was a top priority. Luckily, God led me straight through the doors of the BCM and He helped me feel at home. I quickly made deep friendships that made my sin difficult for me to ignore. There is beautiful and natural accountability in community! By Lent, God was directly commanding me to end my romantic relationship and to pursue His own heart. I was no longer lonely thanks to the many genuine friends I had made, and I no longer tried to fill a God-sized hole in my heart with a boy. I confessed my sins to three very close friends during a discipleship group one day in April of my freshman year, and soon after he and I broke up peacefully. I began the process of finding my self-worth in Christ, forgiving myself the way God had already forgiven me, and moving on. After reading a couple of books about dating I was resolute about not dating again until after college. I wanted to be the woman my future husband would want before I even met him. I had learned many lessons about giving my heart to the wrong guy. And God had better plans for me.

I met Jakob during my first few months at VT. We both participated in FTLT (Freshman Transfer Leadership Team) and family groups at BCM, lived in Lee Hall, and led a DNOW retreat in January of 2018 with three other BCMers. I was genuinely focused on my schoolwork, being a BCM leader, and my own walk with the Lord, so I didn’t think Jakob would ever be more than a friend. I had thoroughly convinced myself that I couldn’t see myself marrying him, so I didn’t want to entertain the idea of dating. People at BCM saw us and even people who didn’t know us well asked us if there was “something there.” I found this greatly annoying and it added to my resolve not to date him let alone like him. During March of our sophomore year, I was visiting a staff member (hey Katy!) when she asked me the same sort of questions. I told her the usual “I can’t see myself marrying him” to which Katy replied, “why not?” To my surprise I didn’t have an answer. I had made lists before of characteristics I wanted in a future husband. I went home and looked at them… Jakob met every single one!

Kirsten with her fellow small group leaders (silver fam). Enjoy the lovely pose by Garrett.

By early April I had told him, “I can’t not see myself marrying you” and less than a month later we admitted our feelings for each other. We were often on the same page, and our first reactions were to talk to BCM staff members Scott and Chelsea Anderson about it. We each had separate conversations with our mentors and decided that over the summer we would both read a book by Ben Stuart entitled “Single Dating Engaged Married” and pray about what God was calling us to do. We agreed that as soon as we got back to Blacksburg, we would have a conversation about the book and our feelings. As I read the book, I was still coming up with reasons not to date Jakob. I liked being single, dating him would hold me back from my career, he would distract me from Jesus, I didn’t want people to think I dated around… But as I prayed all the worries and fears I had melted away one by one. I had conversations with Chelsea and other close friends who all encouraged me to listen to what God was telling me. Again, there is so much value in community!

When we met up again at the beginning of our junior year, God was obviously pushing me toward him and opening my heart. He was so intentional and patient with me and our conversation was over three hours long! He led the conversation so well (and had 10 pages of notes; I had 3 and thought it was overkill!) and allowed me to comment on anything he was saying at any time. God was giving me peace through the conversation because we agreed on every single point throughout the entire book. We talked about everything from learning about Christ through one another to the dreams and goals for our lives God had laid on our hearts. I prayed God would show up in our conversation and give me a yes beyond any doubt that we were supposed to date; and that’s exactly what happened!

Kirsten and Jakob

Since that day, we have built our relationship on the immovable foundation of Christ. We have made it our goal that as long as we’re in a relationship we will be an example of Christ’s love for the Church. There are many important things I’ve learned, and I’d like to share just a few of them with you:

  1. Dating is a process you move through, not a status you stay in – the goal of dating is marriage
  2. Even if your dating relationship doesn’t end in marriage, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t godly – it’s okay to break up with someone who loves the Lord if God is calling you to
  3. God, the King of romance, invented it for His glory and our enjoyment – dating should be fun!
  4. God loves you and will gift you beyond what you think you deserve – all I did was seek Him and then He gave me more than I could have asked for in Jakob

Although I still struggle with my past, I am redeemed and loved unconditionally by my Heavenly Father; I’m not tainted in any way. I seek Him constantly in my life and relationship, and I love showing Jakob the same love God has shown me. I’m not asking Jakob to fill a God-sized hole in my heart because it is so full of the Holy Spirit. I’m constantly learning from him about Christ’s love (Enneagram Twos are so amazing), and we are pursuing Him together in all things. We are vigilant for God’s will for our relationship and we are still excited to be together (it’s been almost one year!). I pray God alone would fill your heart, reader, that you would trust His timing, and that You would seek His will for your life in all things.

More Kirsten and Jakob

If you ever have questions about anything (life, dating, BCM, VT, etc.) please feel free to contact Jakob or me!

My email: kirst26@vt.edu

Jakob’s email: jakobL7@vt.edu

Books that changed my perspective on dating: Single Dating Engaged Married by Ben Stuart, When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy, and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Glory in the Valley

Today’s post comes straight from the heart of Johanna Garrett. Today she shares her story of hope in the midst of losing her grandmother. I hope you are encouraged by her faith.

Johanna and her grandmother

Hi friends, my name is Johanna I am a Senior (super hard to believe) studying Human Development here at Virginia Tech. My hometown is Virginia Beach, where a few of my favorite things are grabbing coffee with friends and listening to live music!  I have enjoyed being a part of the BCM community these past three years and have loved getting to lead alongside others in their walk with Christ!

No one could have imagined the past few months of life would be filled with enduring a global pandemic. It’s all different. Everything in a matter of weeks shifted around the world and what once was, most likely, will be forever changed. This season has been a whirlwind and we all have experienced unexpected changes to our lives whether it was lost opportunities, economic challenges, increased fear and anxiety, cancelled trips, altered routines, etc. The normal we once all knew was gone.  I faced personal loss when my grandmother unexpectedly passed away in early May from non-covid health conditions.

My grandmother had a huge influence on my life. She lived in my childhood home, helping to raise my brother and me after our parent’s divorce. My grandma introduced me to Jesus and was the most selfless, faithful, and joyous reflection of His loving kindness I could have been gifted with. Some of my fondest memories were our many road trips of taking my sweet grandma all along the East Coast; she was always ready for a road trip with our wild family even at eighty-five years old. Our late afternoons of coffee and intentional conversations (mostly filled with belly laughs) are what I miss the most. I have twenty-one years saturated with memories of her and I hold each moment so dearly.

In loss of all kinds, we have triumph where defeat is only temporary, and death is made a mockery. I feel the noble ache of my grandmother not being here, but I choose thankfulness. Her legacy and life of following Christ gives me the hope that I can look beyond and know vividly that life is only a breath and for all eternity we will be close again. Jesus bought that for me, so I am profoundly thankful. He is alive and my grandmother is alive in Him. So we press on and live fully alive too. The Lord makes good on every word, and even if I can’t see how, it doesn’t mean it’s not. However and whenever He delivers it, it is wrapped up in a goodness I cannot fathom.

The Lord has taught me that grief and hope are not distant from each other but fully intertwined. Hope gives way to a tender grief, and grief, a more heartfelt hope. If we need a model to look to in this, Jesus does just that. He is the one that wept at the loss of Lazarus, while knowing resurrection was just around the corner. He allowed His heart and humanity to have a place in the story. It showed us something we had never seen, but desperately needed, fully God and fully man. The Father has always been on the scene shattering silence to embrace us. Immanuel. God our answer, unafraid of our mess, even from the first breath in the trough. He is right here, ever present. Whether in harvest or a barren place, God is always involved in all He made, not stoic or unaffected by our disappointment and pain. 

I never doubted His goodness, but anger, disappointment, searing loss had to get out. He never left, didn’t correct me. He pulled in closer.

Johanna Garrett

When Jesus pressed on my heart to seek out distance as a space to heal and reflect after my grandmother’s funeral, I resisted it, downplayed it, overplayed it, and then gave into it. I’d rather have stayed up and moving, looking to serve my friends and family unfazed by the aching of loss, but I had broken bones and Jesus is too good to let me move around like normal on them. He was clear they were not broken from defeat- there is no defeat here. Death isn’t darkness, that’s because of Jesus; the fear of death is completely shamed into becoming a passage into fuller life. But pain? Yes. Loss in this lifetime? Yes. Jesus refused to leave, even when I thought He should. I tried to play it tidy, right, and holy, but He doesn’t ask for our grief in a perfect organized pile. He takes our humanity in all its spilling out and draws us in. I never doubted His goodness, but anger, disappointment, searing loss had to get out. He never left, didn’t correct me. He pulled in closer. I’m learning shepherd Jesus, who’s acquainted with valleys, not afraid to walk with us. Not rushed to move us along, because He is the patient, kind, listening Good Shepherd. I can be honest with Him, because He’s holding me, His name is Truth, and He won’t let me stray. His name is Way, and I won’t get stuck there in the waiting. He created passages where fear tells me I’m at a dead end. He is life when this planet is gripped with a fear of death, grappling for control. One of the biggest stances of faith I’m learning is to remain confident in trust. He means it when He says to come to Him, when weary and burdened, not after. Rest comes from His hand, not from earthly answers or things going back to normal. I will never have my things back to normal; who knows when you’ll get yours. In what we face, He is King, He is Shepherd, He defeated death, and knows every detail.

After reading through Hebrews 11 a few weeks ago verses 39-40 really resonated with me, “and all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” I wondered how these heroes of faith could so wholeheartedly trust and not get what they expected. Even though they obtained a good testimony through faith, they never saw the promise in the same way that we do on this side of the cross. They did not receive the promise, the testimony of the completed work of the Messiah on their behalf. It is not that they did not; it just wasn’t how they expected, or maybe how I expected it for them. I wanted to be assured it always turns out exactly like I thought. I can identify how the faithfulness of Hebrews 11 pulled eternity up to my finiteness, it challenges my tidy “if this, then that” expectations. It does mean something about God, but not what I was afraid of.  He’s not lying, He won’t cheat us or steal, He doesn’t just sweep our fears under the rug and say get over it, be thankful for what you have. He’s much better. His promises are so good that they’re tied to His nature and nearness. Maybe we’re meant to see some by the light of His face, by the glimmer of the Morning Star Himself. There may be promises so beautiful they find their fulfillment in the glory that awaits us. I know I will see many in this life. I know there are promises He will hand-deliver me, in His presence, the presence of my grandmother’s legacy, and the presence of friends and family dear to me. This does not make me contend less, far from quieting “earth as in heaven,” it makes me hope even louder.

So, it only makes sense to stand heaven-side to look at the remainder of my days, and it’s a very different view from there. I see green-with-life purpose, hope, and redemption. There are plans for my life that matter to eternity and need to be completed here. I do not have the answers, but a byproduct of walking through this valley is that I am standing on the right side of the question, and from here I believe my every breath will turn triumphant. There’s glory in the valley. It’s not the year we expected or what I would have hoped for, but throughout the waiting and loss, a redemptive reuniting is awaiting. We choose joy. We choose love. We chose peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. We choose Christ. Do not think of it as a pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, because healing and renewing is a process. What we are doing when we choose to redeem our attitude is living out the redemption story of the grace of God and the sacrifice of his son. We can rest in our identity in Christ and allow Him to be strong where we are weak. Nothing forgotten, nothing wasted. He is still in the middle of it all, rebuilding ruined places, He is better than I ever knew, and He can still have all my love. If you can only taste bitter, keep on my friend, sweetness is coming.

VT Eats and Treats: Cabo Fish Taco and Chicken Quesadillas

Today on the blog, we are talking about something a little different – food! Emery McConville has written a post about Cabo Fish Taco and her own favorite chicken quesadilla recipe. Check back every Friday for a food related post! Enjoy!

Your author, red fam outreach leader and person of good taste, Emery McConville

What’s good, Hokies? This little blog topic is all about good eats around Blacksburg and a new recipe you can try at home. I hope you all are hungry because this week we are headed to Cabo Fish Taco!

Cabo is located on the corner of Lee Street and Main in downtown Blacksburg. They have everything from their famous fish tacos to delicious quesadillas and fajitas. Many nights with the squad have been spent stuffing ourselves at Cabo and, honestly, no regrets. We start with chips and salsa and the night only gets better from there!

Source: https://www.cabofishtaco.com/

If you’re reading this and thinking “Yo, fish is gross”, then no worries! Cabo has chicken and beef options as well! My personal favorite choice would be the classic chicken quesadilla. It’s one of the best ones that I have ever had so I literally get it every time! Another favorite is their cheddar mashers. It’s just cheese and mashed potatoes, but no joke, they are so good! For you veggie lovers out there you can always have a salad or wrap of your choice! They also have yummy appetizers, such as guacamole, and spinach and artichoke dip. All go amazing with their tortilla chips!

As you can see there are a ton of delicious options at our local Cabo Fish Taco! If you are looking for some good food and a Hokie-loving hangout, then go try Cabo! It won’t disappoint, I promise you.

Chicken Quesadilla Recipe

If going out isn’t your thing or you are a broke college student like me, try this easy and delicious quesadilla recipe!

An action shot from “The Hunger Games,” a recent BCM cooking competition.

You’re going to need these ingredients: boneless skinless chicken breasts, (2) bell peppers, a red onion, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded colby jack cheese, (6) flour tortillas, olive oil, and sour cream for dipping.

Now here are your steps!

To get started you are going to cut the chicken breasts into ½ inch cubes (this makes it easier for cooking). Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a skillet on medium to medium high. Place your chicken cubes in the pan and cook until done. This should take about 6 minutes. Remove chicken and place in a bowl.

Next you are going to dice your peppers and onions into small cubes (make sure to remove the core of the pepper to get rid of the seeds) Place another 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the skillet, along with the diced peppers and onions. Cook for about 6 minutes and make sure to stir occasionally. Place them in the bowl with the chicken and mix together.

As you can see, we are serious about fine cuisine.

After this, you are going to brush the tops of your tortillas with butter (so they don’t stick to the pan). Wipe your skillet clean of the oil, and then place one tortilla on the skillet. Make sure the butter side is facing down.

Place ½ cup of cheese on the tortilla, followed by your chicken mixture. Then cover with another tortilla. Cook for about 2 minutes and then carefully flip the tortilla to the others side. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove from pan. For more quesadillas repeat!

All done! You can now enjoy your quesadilla! I like mine with sour cream, but if that’s not for you then try salsa or guacamole!

Here is the link to the official recipe: http://findally.co/chicken-quesadillas-recipe/?utm_campaign=yummly&utm_medium=yummly&utm_source=yummly

I hope you all have enjoyed this week’s “VT Eats and Treats” and BCM blog! Now you are ready to go out there and eat some good food!

Growing Closer to God and Others During My First Mission Trip Experience

Today’s blog post is written by Orange Family’s outreach leader, the one and only Samantha Richard! I hope you are encouraged as she reflects on her experience of accepting the call to serve in Thibodeaux, Louisiana for spring break.

The BCM at VT crew with some new friends from Thibodeaux.

When I first started BCM in the Spring of 2019, I would have never believed you if you told me I would be going to a different time zone for a mission trip or going on one at all.

I had always dreamed of going to Louisiana because I had always felt really attached to it in some way, but I just didn’t know how. In one of my classes this past semester, on the first day we played two truths and a lie and one of my truths was: “I had never been to Louisiana, but I’d love to go some day.” A few weeks later at the BCM they were talking about mission trips and how one of them would be at Nicholls State in Thibodeaux, Louisiana. I felt that this was a clear sign that I should go on the trip however, I was still hesitant to sign up. I talked with God and prayed A LOT, over if He would use me to help spread His word on this trip, or if I was just going because I was checking off something on my bucket list. After realizing that this is what God had in store for me, I signed up to go and was accepted for the trip.

You would think that after careful consideration I would have realized that Louisiana was in a different time zone and I had never been that far away from home, but you would be incorrect. I remember I was talking to our campus minister while paying for the trip and asked how far the drive was to Louisiana. He told me that it was about a 14-hour drive but that we would most likely be flying there. FLYING THERE??!! I had been terrified of airplanes my entire life and never thought I would be getting on one. After going back to my apartment and having a meltdown because I would be flying on an airplane, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, and I knew that it was God reassuring me that I was going to be fine.

Fear: Conquered.

When we arrived in the New Orleans Airport, we were greeted by two of the sweetest people I have ever met, Ashton and Shelby. They were kind enough to commute an hour and back to take us to where we were staying. The first night the six of us who were on the trip had a great Walmart adventure and made it back to the church we were staying at, just before the alarm would be set for the night. Getting settled in with everyone was great. We were able to sit in the common area and just chat about what are goals were for this trip and how we were going to use our God given gifts to share with the people we would encounter on this mission trip. It was truly a blessing to already feel so close with the people that I would be spending the next week with.

“It was truly a blessing to already feel so close with the people that I would be spending the next week with.”

Samantha Richard

I guess part of the reason we were able to grow close quickly is because of the experience we encountered on our second night in Louisiana. It was the night that the time change would spring forward an hour and around 1:00 in the morning, we were woken up out of a dead sleep by flashing lights and a loud alarm that kept saying: “AN EMERGENCY HAS BEEN DETECTED. PLEASE EXIT THE BUILDING.” We were of course freaking out because we were in an unfamiliar place and we were scared to go outside. Once the boys finally came out of their room, they led us outside into the pitch-black dark while we waited for the fire department. After an hour (and watching it turn from 1:59 to 3:00 on our phones) the fire department said we could go back inside, they had solved the problem. You would think that would be the worst thing that would have happened to us that day but again, you would be wrong. Around seven in the morning when I was still laying in my “bed” which was a row of chairs, there was a loud knock followed by flashlights shining in our eyes. The law enforcement officers asked us to come out into the common area with our driver’s license. I thought it was a follow-up from the fire alarm from a couple of hours earlier however, it turned out that we were suspects for a break-in that was reported that morning in the church. It turns out our friend Jakob was going to the shower when the man who opens the church on Sundays saw him and was unaware that we would be staying there. Long story short, poor Jakob ended up in handcuffs with shampoo still in his hair. The mission team that almost gets arrested together, stays together…or something like that.

Jakob Lyons, the shower criminal

Even though that second night may differ from this, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we were treated like royalty when we were down there. Everyone at the Nicholls State BCM was so nice and welcoming. They introduced us to their “Jungle Pong” game and we ended up playing that for the rest of the week. I was also introduced to a crawfish broil which was… interesting to say the least, but also a lot of fun. A mission project that we had decided to do was to clean up around the BCM and redo the hallway that was in the building. We gave the hallway and door a fresh coat of paint and my dear friend Kirsten (who is amazingly talented), hand painted a verse from Matthew 28 that states: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” We decided on this verse because this is where their BCM members would show their photos from the mission trips they have been on.

I saw the love and awesomeness of God so much throughout this mission experience. He gave me the courage to go out on campus and do “water bottling” which is offering someone on campus a water bottle if they asked you a question about faith, religion, the Bible, etc. When I was first told that we would be doing this, I was feeling uneasy about it. I am not usually the type to discuss my faith, I just practice it with no questions asked. And talking to strangers? It was unsettling for me. God gave me that courage to participate, and I ended up having so many wholesome conversations with students. Some were Catholic, Baptist, and there were also great conversations had with an atheist student. I know God knew exactly what He was doing when he placed these individuals in my path. I broke out of my shell that week by talking to people I had never met, singing in front of a crowd, and just being my true self with people I had just met. It was incredible to see myself doing things I thought I would never have the courage to do.

The BCM at VT team. From left to right: Kirsten, Hunter, Jakob, Samantha, Maddie, and Kate.

Something that made us see the silver lining during this trip was the emergence of COVID-19. We were able to go visit New Orleans the first full day we were there however, by the end of the week New Orleans was considered a “hotspot” for the virus. It was nerve wracking to experience something like that. On top of that, everyone on the Virginia Tech team got the email at the same time that stated we would not be returning to school after spring break. We were absolutely crushed. We had this amazing experience that we couldn’t wait to go back and tell everyone at BCM about and we were not able to get the chance. I am, however, very grateful that we all found out this news at the same time, so we could lean on each other and really reach out to the only senior on our team, Kate. I am so thankful even in this time of confusion and uncertainty because I was at least able to go on this trip, before everything closed down. The silver lining was that we were still able to have 6:33 virtually and we had the opportunity to attend Nicholls State’s worship night over Zoom!

“If I could give an incoming freshman or anyone for that matter one piece of advice, it would be to follow God’s calling for you.”

Samantha Richard

This trip is one I will never forget. I conquered so many fears and experienced so many firsts throughout this trip and I cannot praise God enough for the opportunity he gave me. The kindness I received in Louisiana will never be forgotten and I cannot wait to go back next year, if it is God’s plan. The whole time I was down there I thought that I was supposed to be the one helping and serving others. I never imagined that I would get that plus more in return from the kind people at Nicholls State. If I could give an incoming freshman or anyone for that matter one piece of advice, it would be to follow God’s calling for you. I know that God wanted me to go on that mission trip because he knew it would grow my faith in him tremendously. He made our group grow closer to each other, but also closer to the students at Nicholls State. I made so many amazing friendships with the Nicholls BCM students. God prepared me for my first time being an outreach leader for the BCM (shout out to my orange fam) with this mission trip because I was able to take what I learned about outreach and evangelism in Louisiana, and bring it back to my time of leadership at Virginia Tech. Even during a time when the world was, and is still changing due to COVID-19, we were blessed to experience God’s wonderful love through heartfelt interactions with everyone we came into contact with on our trip, and that is something I will keep in my heart forever.

The girls: Kate, Maddie, Kirsten and Samantha’s hand.

After God’s Heart, In Community, On Mission

Jesus had a lot of prospective disciples. Seriously…a lot. Think about Jesus feeding 5,000 men, not to mention the women and children. It’s not hard to presume that on this one occasion Jesus was interacting with a Cassell Coliseum-sized group. People were entranced not only but his miracles but by the things he had to say. In Mark 2:1-12 when Jesus heals the paralytic, we see a good example of both healing and teaching in one place. It seems, at times, that Jesus had a knack for drawing a crowd.

But at the same time, Jesus doesn’t seem to keep the crowds around for long. Sometimes, he told people to drop what they were doing and follow him. But sometimes he said some hard things that seemed to scare people away. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:53) is not the most inviting language I’ve ever heard.

So, I think it’s fair to ask – what exactly does it mean to be Jesus’ disciple? What characterizes the life of someone who follows Jesus? Books could fill the world on these questions, but at BCM we have tried to synthesize the answer to this: After God’s Heart, In Community, On Mission. This is our slogan and it’s the thing around which everything we do revolves. This, we believe, is the heartbeat of the Christian life.

After God’s Heart

In rebuking Saul, Samuel tells him that God will install a new king over Israel, one who is “after his own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14) David was the young man God chose, the smallest of his brothers, but the right one for the role because of his heart (1 Samuel 16:7). What then can we learn from David about being after the heart of God?

David’s life was riddled with mistakes, some of which were quite grave. The episode with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband is enough evidence. How about his census that brought about a plague? A cursory reading of the Samuels demonstrates that David’s life was far from perfect or pleasant. One of the more heartbreaking stories revolves around his son Absalom. David’s other son Amnon raped their sister Tamar. Absalom was enraged by this act and later murdered Amnon. Later, Absalom decided that he would replace his father as king. In a scheme of trickery, Absalom rallied support and David was forced to flee to the desert.

In the desert, at the point of despair, David pens these words:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you. (Psalm 63:1-3)

The heart of God is mercy and love. On the cross his love and justice meet. We have worshipped the golden calf and turned to other gods but God looks at us and says, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

If this is God’s heart, then to chase after it means to put yourself at His mercy. It is to confess and agree with God that you have sinned and cannot earn his favor. Like David, it is to look at the mess around you and acknowledge that He is the bread of life. Come to Jesus like a little child, dependent on his love.

In Community

If it hasn’t happened for you already, if you grew up in a church-going home, your mom WILL call you within the first month of school and ask about church. In fact, if you last a month without her asking, I would be shocked. For some families, going to church feels as natural as breathing. It has been engrained into the neurons of your brain that Sunday=church.

The thing is, not everyone loves going to church. Many have been disillusioned by surface-level interactions or sermons that didn’t connect. Some went to churches with music that felt out of touch or where the median age was 60. What happens in many situations like this is that people become disenfranchised with the faith. They get to college and don’t want much to do with Jesus and would rather look elsewhere for the life they desire.

This should catch our attention. If Christianity was all about information, we all have access to the same stuff – we all have the same Bible and most churches teach at least the basics of the gospel. What’s the difference? Community.

It’s not a secret that Jesus talks a lot about our relationships with others. When he narrows down the commandments to 2, “love your neighbor as yourself” is left standing. His sermons and ethics have a lot to do with how we treat others. In the gospel of John, he tells the disciples that it is our love that will demonstrate our identity to the world. Examples abound. 

However, I believe that many of us have experienced far more polite religion than we have experienced community. Many have sat in pews with people for years and know almost nothing about them. We love to have theological conversations, but are not very good at talking about our inner lives, struggles, and hopes.

God made us to be relational beings. In fact, God himself, within the Trinity, is inherently relational. Neurobiologists have found that connecting with others is how our brains form rightly. Put simply: you were not created to live alone. In that, God has made our relationship with him to be intricately tied up with our relationship to others. We cannot truly have one without the other. Think that’s overstated? Check this out: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)

God invites us not just to know about him, but to know him. Doing that involves letting ourselves be known by god. (See 1 Cor. 8:3) But integral to this is Christian community. One of the takeaways I see from Hebrews 10:23-25, a famous community passage, is this: community is God’s vehicle for drawing us near to Himself. It is in community that we experience his love, grace, correction, and reconciliation in the flesh. The Spirit is at work in and among us.

On Mission

Mission trips have long been the hallmark of church missions. Backed by the Great Commission, we take the gospel to “them,” which is inevitably oversees or at least across some kind of border.

Don’t get me wrong, missions to the nations is biblical and spans the entire canon. The Israelites were called to be a priestly nation. God moved them to the geographic center of a bunch of people who didn’t know him and put his people on display. He wanted the people of the world to see their obedience and relationship with God and stand in awe. (See Deut. 4:5-8) And yes, Jesus sends the disciples out from Jerusalem to share the good news. Paul is seen spanning west into the known world. We can and should go to the nations with the gospel.

This may seem nitpicky, but it’s important to note that we are not “on missions.” We are “on mission.” That is to say, we are joining in with the mission of God. What is that? It is God brining all of creation under his rule through the gospel of Jesus. God designed us to be co-rulers of the earth, but sin has temporarily marred this intention. Through the reconciliation available in Christ, we are invited back into the family of God to rule with him once more.

What does this involve? Everything. God desires all of our lives to be a mirror of him here on earth. This is what in means to be made in his image; we are his representatives here on earth.

So yes, this involves reaching out to all of mankind, imploring them to cease their striving and find rest in the love of Jesus. Jesus does truly want everyone to be saved. But this is done through far more than simply preaching and helping people understand the words of the gospel. This is done by showing extraordinary care for those who hate you. This is done by standing with the oppressed even when it disadvantages you, especially in light of George Floyd. This is done by doing what is loving instead of what is self-preserving, especially in light of the pandemic.

The gospel is not just about getting your mind right, it’s about getting your life right. This means that we aren’t just out there trying to get people to say a prayer and believe that Jesus rose from the dead – Satan believes that. Being on mission is about submitting to the lordship of Jesus and inviting others into that life. Others are drawn by our unique love both for one another and the world.

Come and See

Philip was called to follow Jesus and he seems to accept somewhat quickly. Before long he finds Nathanael and tells him that they have found Jesus of Nazareth, the one about whom the prophets wrote. Not only is this an outrageous claim, Nathanael carries with him the local bias against Nazareth. He rebuffs Philip’s excitement, sure that nothing good can come from Nazareth, much less the Messiah.

Philip’s next words are amazing: “Come and see.” (John 1:46) Philip doesn’t open up a scroll and begin to argue with Nathanael. He doesn’t get mad that he has been so quickly dismissed. He says the only thing he can say: “come and see.” This is the call of following Jesus. From a distance, it can seem hard, odd, and frustrating.

But would you simply come and see?

Blog Coming Soon!

We will be launching the blog on July 20th! Come back to hear about everything from how students are seeing God work in their lives to tips on how to navigate freshman year at Virginia Tech.