By MALLORY ROSS
It was an incredibly cold January night when I found myself riding across the country in a minivan, not sure what I had gotten myself into. I knew I was headed toward Washington, D.C. Other than that, I had very little idea of what this trip would entail.
The car was full of the chatter that comes with great friends being together and learning from each other.
Steering the vehicle and the conversation was United Methodist campus minister Michael Bartley, a true teacher and the only person who had any idea what the next few days might bring for our group of Oklahoma State University students.
After a day and night of driving, we learned that we would visit a man dealing with a terminal illness, in a Philadelphia suburb.
Despite his circumstances, he chose to handle his situation with dignity and grace, exuding an inspiring positivity.
We traveled on to Washington, where we learned about the Adams Morgan neighborhood and about a man’s vision for a church to fully be the hands and feet of Christ. He was led to start numerous social services for people in extreme poverty. We experienced a little of what these services provided for the residents of the neighborhood.
We talked with people, ate with them, and started to gain an understanding for the way they live life.
I learned a lot on this trip and, by the end, I knew why Michael did not give the trip a title or an objective. Those would have limited what we allowed to happen.
We students would have gone expecting certain lessons. The experiences would have been diluted by our preconceived ideas.
The way Michael encourages people is truly a gift. He takes the time to ask the questions. He shares his own struggles honestly, creating a space where others feel comfortable to do the same.
I feel so much excitement for the young people just beginning their journey at the Wesley Foundation for OSU in Stillwater because of the incredible things they will learn within that community. They will learn to love others in such a way that their entire lives will be different. They will be challenged to strive toward understanding in a world that doesn’t take the time.
They will have the opportunity to know a man who has dedicated 20 years of his life to sharing the love of Christ, who understands that through Christ we can do abundantly more for this world, and that it is our obligation to try.
(Ross, originally from Woodward, serves as a Peace Corps urban agriculture extension agent in Senegal, Africa. She is an OSU alum and was a campus ministry intern while there.)
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