Recently, our very own Sarah Stef took it upon herself to start up a unique and much needed workshop: True Christianity. The purpose of this weekly discussion is to address common misconceptions about the Christian faith in an attempt to clarify how and Christians view the world. It is not an apologetic class, and neither is Sarah looking to lecture for an hour every Thursday night, rather she is trying to facilitate open conversation and understanding among people of all faiths. Over the last few weeks, Sarah has been working to publicize her workshop and has seen had some really good conversations as a result! Last week, she was even featured as a guest blogger on Faith Line Protestants blog through a connection with UIUC’s Interfaith organization (head on over there when you get the chance and browse their website, it’s pretty neat)! Here’s what she had to say:
At the end of my junior year at the University of Illinois, I began to contemplate what my last semester of college would look like (since I am student teaching in the spring, I have to pack all my senior experiences into half the time). What would my goals be? How would I accomplish them? More importantly, have I made a difference in my time at the university? I struggled with these questions and more as I tried to plan the blank expanse that is my future.
In a meeting with several other leaders of the Christian ministry that I attend, I took to heart a comment that seemed to outline a need on our campus: Why can’t we create an environment in which we present our faith without making any assumptions about our audience’s faith, prior knowledge, or intentions? Even the most basic Bible study usually assumes that the members have a Bible at home that they can read between meetings. I got excited, because I felt that I had found my purpose for my last semester—I would organize some sort of weekly workshop that could outline Christianity for anyone who was interested, regardless of religious belief. In fact, I encouraged people to invite their non-Christian friends, because it would be most beneficial to those who may not have heard some of it before.
Wait, let me back up… what do I mean by “it” in that last sentence? Well, having grown up in the church my head is packed full of all these random facts about Christianity; what it is, and what the implications are. My weekly workshop is a semi-successful attempt at organizing basic biblical doctrine into different topical explorations of meaning. But I didn’t stop there! Since I wanted to design this workshop to be beneficial to people who may not know very much about what Christians believe in, I decided to add another layer into my discussions—how can I address common questions and misconceptions that people have about the Christian faith?
We all hate clichés and stereotypes for the same reason—because we don’t like to be misrepresented. Christians aren’t any different. It bothers me that the image of Christianity presented by the media, and a few small fringe groups with loud voices, is a garbled caricature of what Christianity really is. A lot of people are put off by Christianity because what they see is only a distortion, and so I am using my workshop to try to clear up those confusions. This is why I named my workshop True Christianity, because there are so many false Christian ideas out there.
Right now I am at the halfway point in my workshop series, and what surprised me was the response to it. My expectations were that Christians would use it as a way to invite their non-Christian friends into non-judgmental discussions about Christian beliefs. It was very disheartening when I finally realized that my Christian friends had little interest in the workshop, probably because they didn’t think it would be useful to them (which is not necessarily true, I myself have learned a lot through my research for this workshop). But on the flip side, I’ve been getting a lot of positive interest from the non-Christian community itself. People actually want to learn about Christianity! Several groups on campus have supported my work, recognizing the need for educating people about Christianity. I think it’s been awesome how my workshop has allowed me to connect with people on campus with common goals that I would not otherwise have had a chance to work with.
As the end of my workshop approaches, I am once again faced with contemplating the future—what do I want to do with everything I’ve learned and done through this experience? I hate the idea that this was just a one-time deal, and will soon be nothing more than a memory. In fact, I refuse to leave it that way, because the need for this workshop will not end when I leave. That’s why I’ve put all of my notes on my website,truechristianityuiuc.weebly.com, because I want everyone to have access to the information regardless of whether or not they have attended my workshops. Besides, I think this small workshop is something that I would like to refine and re-implement wherever I end up in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll write a book… someday. And wouldn’t it be really cool if some underclassman came up to me today and asked if they could keep the workshop running on campus after I’m gone…
True Christianity meets every Thursday night at 6:30 pm in 309 ACES Library. Spread the word, invite your friends, show up and support Sarah, join her in helping to clear up misunderstandings on our campus while making lasting connections with people of other faiths!
October 10, 2011 – Aaron Bird
Sorry for the temporary hiatus last week… we had a somewhat unconventional service (an interactive discussion about some of the fundamentals of Christianity) that didn’t really lend itself to a written format. This week, too, was a little different, so you won’t find the same “Rewind. Pause. Push Play.” segments, instead you’ll just get my take of Bird’s message. This week was about being convicted, being called to action. This week was about sacrificing for the good of our brothers and sisters around the world who are dying each and every day. This week was about drinking Water so we can give water…
Nobody likes infomercials. They’re long, they’re overdramatic, and they’re always trying to get you to do something… usually that something is “Call right now to place your order and receive our special bonus prize!” To make matters worse, the product they’re selling is typically unnecessary, overpriced, and poorly made. Nobody likes infomercials because they attempt to trick you, and sometimes guilt you, out of your hard earned cash.
You know what people like even less than infomercials about the latest and greatest quadruple-use kitchen appliance? Christian infomercials. You know the ones I’m talking about – there’s the guy or gal dressed in a simple pair of shorts and old t-shirt holding the most adorable child ever standing in the middle of a dirty, dusty street asking you to please do for the least of these. Now, it’s not that we, as viewers, don’t support the mission of the charities behind these advertisements, nor do we aim to scoff at those among us who choose to pick up the phone and donate the much needed funds to drum up food, medicine, and clean water for our brothers and sisters in need. Quite to the contrary, we’re all for someone else answering the call to make a sacrifice on the behalf of a stranger, and we’re definitely all for Christians, in general, stepping up to change the world. Yep, we’re all completely, one-hundred percent on board with sitting in our living rooms and praying for Christians to become the active hands and feet of Christ all over our broken world. And yet, whenever those commercials come on, most of us promptly change the channel. You see, the problem isn’t that we’re against the vision behind these Christian infomercials, it’s quite simply that we don’t like feeling convicted.
The trick there, of course, is that if are seeking to live our life apart from conviction by avoiding it at every possible turn, then we can’t really call ourselves Christ followers, can we? After all, everything Christ does convicts.
So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. John 4: 3-4
Looking at a map, this journey makes sense; of course Jesus would go through Samaria to get from Judea to Galilee – it’s a straight shot. But, culturally speaking, this was a radical concept. No Jew chose to go through Samaria; instead, if you wanted to go north from Judea, you first went east, crossed the Jordan river, then traveled north, then crossed the river again and went west until you reached your destination. The Samaritans were half-breeds, social outcasts, a constant reminder of a violent, shameful past (when the Asyrians invaded, they killed many of the Israelite men, but kept and copulated with the women, creating a new cultural mix of people, with whom the Jews did not associate).
The significance of Jesus’ choice to go through Samaria has less to do with correcting nonsensical travel habits and more to do with irradicating hateful, divisive social prejudice. That, in and of itself, ought to be convicting. There are plenty of people we avoid on a daily basis because they seem “less-than” the kind of people we think we should be hanging out with. Who are the people in your life that you avoid? Do you do so because being with them leaves you feeling just a bit dirty? Do you think that’s what Jesus wants you to do? Where or who is your Samaria?
Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” John 4: 6-7
Once again, to our twenty-first century minds, this doesn’t necessarily strike us as odd, but, again, this was a big deal. It was high noon when Jesus and the Samaritan woman were at the well together… no one drew water at high noon! They’re in the middle of Samaria, which is a hot, dry country, and noon is the absolute hottest part of the day; typcially, women would only make the trip to and from the well in the early morning or the evening hours, when the sun was less harsh. Also, they would generally go in groups to pass the time and strengthen community. The only reason, then, that this woman would be at the well at noon would be if she were a social outcast, either forced out or too ashamed to join with the other women.
Also, Jesus is a Jewish man talking to a shamed Samaritan woman (three strikes against her, by the way), and He’s asking her for a drink! Jesus, a Jewish man and the one, true God, is asking this poor, wretched woman for a drink. Jesus doesn’t hesitate or avoid; He doesn’t avert His eyes or maintain a holier-than-thou attitude (despite His having every right to do so). No, instead, He acknowledges her presence and strikes up a conversation. He validates her existence.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Living Water.” … The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4: 10, 15
The Samaritan woman probably would have benefited from reading through a written transcription of this conversation, especially if it included the tell-tale capitalizations. Here you have yet another example of Jesus’ wondrous rhetorical skill – His incredible ability to manipulate words and stories so that they take on ground-shattering significance. When Jesus makes mention of this Living Water (which He later explains would forever eliminate her thirst), He is no longer speaking of water (H2O); He’s speaking about Himself. She, of course, doesn’t understand – how could she; this is a pretty radical concept. All she’s thinking about is the hours she spends each day walking to and from the well just so she can draw water; how tired she is when she reaches home again; and how she has to do it all over again the next day. When she asks Him for “this water” she still thinks He’s talking about liquid water – that He’s got some sort of magic, self-replenishing water that will get rid of her lonely, shameful journeys to the well.
We know, of course, that the water Jesus is speaking of is not liquid, but grace, and the life it brings isn’t corporeal, it’s spiritual. Jesus is the Living Water, and those who come to know and trust in Him will never thirst again – they will be eternally satisfied.
The woman said, “I know that Messiah [called Christ] is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.” John 4:25-26
She’s not disagreeing with what Jesus is saying, she just doesn’t understand. She’s confused and probably feeling a bit convicted (because Jesus did just finish calling her out on her five husbands), but she’s not willing to act yet. Instead, she simply repeats what she already knows to be true: The Messiah is coming and He will explain everything when He gets here. He’ll tell me what to do and how to live and where to find this magic water. He’ll make it so I don’t have to live under this shame any longer. Jesus listens patiently, but when she’s finished speaking, He wastes no time in setting her straight: I am that Messiah, and I have explained it to you. I am the Living Water; I can make it so you are never lacking again.
Are you lacking? Do you have the Living Water?
We have a water crisis on our hands. For most of us here in America, living in the twenty-first century means having indoor plumbing, satisfactory sanitation systems, and clean water at your finger tips, but to many of our brothers and sisters in other countries, ‘the twenty-first century’ has little baring on the modernization of their culture. In countries like Rwanda, women walk, on average, three miles a day to get water for themselves and their families, and the water they get isn’t even clean. That means two months of these women’s lives each year are spent transporting water. This substance is supposed to be life sustaining, but, instead, it often brings sickness and death. So, why go to all this work? Well, it’s obvious really; because you need it. Without water, people die.
Over 884 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, and 5,000 children die each day due to water related diseases, many of which are completely preventable. The question, then, is this: Would you dink this water? If not, why should they?
So, why do we have a water crisis? Because we have a Water crisis. Everyone is thristy for something, and everyone spends painful hours toiling away trying to find the thing they believe will relieve their thirst. But if we only had Living Water, we would never thirst again.
Read that again slowly: If we only had Living Water, we would never thirst again.
What I mean to say is that if we have Jesus in our lives, we are never lacking. He always provides. Our cup is always full. Even when we don’t see it that way. He provides for all of our needs, physical and spiritual (like it says in Matthew 6, if He takes care of the wild flowers and the birds, how can we not trust that He will take care of us all the more?). And, as if that idea isn’t radical enough, I believe that if we have more Jesus in our lives – if we welcome Him in and allow Him to reign over all our thoughts and actions – we can irradicate physical thirst too.
Each year, 2.2 million people die as a result of contaminated drinking water; that’s 20 jumbo jets full of people that effectively crash. Each day. If those were literal jumbo jets, people would be up in arms across the world; there would be committees and civil action groups working to prevent the tragedy from continuing; there would be groups of people claiming a conspiracy. There would be an overwhelming sense of conviction. We would want to act.
We need to act. Real people are dying. This is not a joke or an exaggeration; this is reality.
We have a water crisis because we have a Water crisis. Followers of Christ are changing the channel, averting their eyes, avoiding Samaria, and refusing to acknowledge a world of people strugglilng to survive. We need to start watching those Christian infomercials and embracing that feeling so similar to guilt and calling it by its true name. We need to be convicted. We need to follow Jesus’ example and walk to the well in Samaria, sit down beside it and meet people there. We need to drink Water to give water.
At the well is where the world changes; it’s where sanctification, justification, and transformation happen. Life happens at the well, but it’s messy, which is why we’d rather sit on our couch or in our pew and say a silent prayer rather than taking action.
You will never be held accountable for the number of bible verses you committed to memory or the number of worship songs you sung. But you will be held accountable for what you did, or didn’t do, at the well. You are here for such a time as this – there are no more excuses. Take action. Drink Water to give water.
Join the 10 Days Campaign. Across the nation, college students are giving up all drinks other than water for the next 10 days (Oct. 10 – 19th) and donating all of the money they would have spent to Living Water International, which will take the proceeds and build wells in Rwanda, providing thousands of people with clean, safe drinking water. Be a part of the change.
“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” (Acts 13:47 NIV)
The University of Illinois is HUGE. There are more than 40,000 students here studying hundreds of different majors. We are a Big Ten university with the largest Greek system in the world. We boast over 800 registered student organizations (RSOs) and a vast number of intramural sports teams. We consistently have one of the highest percentages of international students in the whole world, which means you can make connections (and have a real impact) in every corner of the globe without ever leaving Urbana-Champaign. The U of I is home to a number of world-renowned professors and researchers, as well as some of the brightest students you will ever meet. Our football team may be hit-or-miss at times, but our graduates have gone on to, quite literally, change the world…
Smack dab in the middle of all the soy bean and corn fields of central Illinois await millions of opportunities for students to make the most out of their education and their life (all while learning how to spell I-L-L-I-N-I properly and cheering on a relatively non-existent mascot). But, there are also millions of temptations. Statistics vary, but it has been found that the majority of students who begin college already knowing Jesus, walk away from their faith within the first year, and there are many, many more who don’t have a faith to walk away from in the first place. We want to do something about that.
Axiom is just one of the many RSOs on campus, but we have something different to offer than the majority of them, something “of greater worth than gold” (1 Peter 1:7). We have faith in Jesus Christ, and we want to share that with the world.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 NIV).
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll fill you in: Axiom is a Christian ministry located on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. We have a house on the corner of Lincoln Ave and Oregon St in Urbana where some of the guys in our ministry live, where our staff works, where our students gather and fellowship, and where we host English Corner every Wednesday evening from 5-6pm. This year our worship service is being held everyMonday night at 8pm in Mumford Hall (on the south quad), room 103 – you should probably check us out some time; we’re nice, our band is AWESOME, and our ministers are pretty cool too.
Axiom is a campus ministry that desires to support students as they run towards their passions, and more poignantly, to encourage them to be passionate about Jesus Christ and who He is calling them to be. We, at Axiom, are constantly looking for new, unique ways to reach out to our campus and to meet the needs of the students who find themselves at U of I, Parkland College, or in the surrounding areas. In the last few years, God has been moving in some truly incredible ways on campus and within our ministry. Axiom has been experiencing unprecedented growth and some big changes; God has really been challenging us to place our trust in Him and dream big dreams. It’s all we can do to keep up, but we’re loving every minute of it!
Currently we have four wonderful, Christ-minded ministers at Axiom: Aaron Bird, Mary Baird, Rebekah Songer, and Gary Umphrey. I can say with full confidence that each of these four individuals not only has a heart for God and for His work, but more specifically, they each have a heart for God’s work on this campus. We, as students, are incredibly blessed to have such a wide range of life experiences from whom to draw advice, guidance, support, and friendship. In addition to our lovely staff, we also have seventeen students on the Servant Leadership Team (SLT). As you’ve probably deduced, these guys and gals are student leaders who, along with our ministers, are in charge of a variety of outreach activities within our ministry, such as service projects, the worship service, bible studies, and English Corner (you can find out exactly who’s who at the Axiom website – www.illinoisaxiom.com – under the “Contact” tab). Each member of our SLT is desperately in love with Jesus, and is looking for ways to pour out His love on campus.
Now that you know a little bit more about us, maybe you’re wondering about our name: what in the world is an “axiom,” anyway?
An axiom is: an accepted, established, and self-evident truth; Jesus Christ is an axiom. In fact He is the axiom. It’s like what Paul said: “…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Ro. 1:20). The truth of our Father’s eternal goodness and our Savior’s unending love is undeniable, and as plain to see as the sunrise, as easy to feel as a breeze, and more beautiful than the stars. Christ is the only reality. Thus, Axiom, notice the capital “A” here, attempts to be a representation of that truth and that reality.
As humans, it is so easy to get caught up in the world we see all around us; to be sucked in to thinking that we are a big deal. Distraction is everywhere. At any given time there are a million different things asking for, and sometimes demanding, our attention: school, work, friends, family, bills, deadlines, grocery shopping, your sorority/fraternity, your honors society, your volunteer organization, your roommates, TV, video games, the internet, the bars, parties, and, especially when you’re a student, sleep. Now, I’m not saying that these in and of themselves are negative distractions, but the point is, sometimes it gets a little difficult to remember what it is that we’re doing here.
“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ – the Message – have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:15-17 MSG)
After three years on this campus, exploring, making friends, and seeing what the U of I has to offer, Axiom is still the place where I am most reminded of my center, of my true purpose. It’s a place where I know that I have made friends for life because my friends have become my family. It’s a place that has been, and is continuing to teach me how to lead by being a follower of Christ. Axiom is where I go to be challenged, encouraged, comforted, poured into, loved on, and cared for multiple times a week – it never gets old. And, in turn, it’s where I go to be all of those things and do all of those things for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Axiom reminds me that there is a world out there that’s much bigger than me, and much bigger than U of I, and that world is desperately in need of Christ. Moreover, Axiom constantly encourages me to do something about that need. We are not a ministry that sits still and waits for people to find Christs on their own; we want to be a part of opening their eyes to His majesty by coming alongside and showing His great love to our campus. Monday nights are a breath of fresh air, Thursday night bible studies are a reminder that God ranks higher than any academic endeavor, and the people I’ve met are never shy about building me up, encouraging my passions, and offering Godly advice. What I’m trying to say, is that for me, and for quite a few others, Axiom is home.
On a typical Monday night, our worship service is filled with students who have gathered for one purpose: to worship our Creator and Savior. It’s one of the few places on campus where you walk in the front door and are immediately greeted with a smile, a handshake, and maybe even a hug (okay, it’s probably gonna be a hug; be prepared), from someone who loves you simply because Christ loves you. And the best part is that this love – Christ’s love – is the most real thing in the world; the only truth.
In case you were wondering, the point of this blog is to keep all of you up to date on the goings on at Axiom. And, yes, I am a real student at UIUC. My name is Taylor Pinion and I’m a senior majoring in History and double minoring in English and International Studies, and this will be my second year serving as the president of Axiom. Axiom found me on Quad Day of my freshman year at a time when I was in no way looking for a Christian ministry; I am so thankful that God saw fit to throw a frisbee at my head and open my heart to what it really means to follow Him! If you ever want to talk more about Axiom, or Jesus, or the university, or Napoleon Bonaparte, or Andrew Johnson (I’m a history major, remember?), please come find me – Monday night worship is probably a good place to look (8pm, Mumford Hall, Room 103).
Most entries here will be written by students about students and their pursuit of Jesus Christ (if you want in on that action, again, talk to me, or check out the “Get Involved!” page here on the blog). We hope that you are just as jazzed about what God’s doing on our campus as we are, and that you would be praying for our ministry and for our students- that God would always be our center, our guide, and our purpose.
Hello dear friends! As you make your way back to our lovely campus in the next few days, I hope you find yourself well-rested, prepared, and excited for yet another wonderful year! Fall 2011 brings a few changes to Axiom, including a new time and location for our worship service, and we are pumped to get going! So, before you solidify your plans for Welcome Week 2011, take a look at our schedule, get psyched, and, of course, tell all your friends!
Sunday, August 21st – Ice Cream Social
What could be better after a hot day traipsing around the Quad than hanging out with Axiom and eating some super cold ice cream?? Join us at the Axiom House at 7pm for cool treats and even cooler people!
Monday, August 22nd – Axiom Worship Service
That’s right! Axiom’s weekly worship service will be held on Monday nights at 8pm this semester!! ALSO, our location is different this semester: we’ll be meeting in Mumford Hall (on the south quad), Rm. 103. We can’t imagine a better way to kick off the semester than praising the Lord with all of our friends, so we really hope to see you and all of your buddies there! *Afterwards, we’ll be heading back to the Axiom House to finish off the ice cream from Sunday night.*
Wednesday, August 24th – Burgers, Bags, and Bocci
Even after only a few days on campus, you’ll probably be missin’ mom’s home cooking, so why not let Axiom provide the grub? Grab your friends and head on over to the Axiom House at 7pm for some grilled deliciousness and lots of fun games! (If you’re already a part of Axiom, we’d really appreciate you bringing a side to pass – thanks in advance!)
Friday, August 26th – Date Night with Axiom
You’ve officially finished the first week of Fall 2011 and now you’re ready for the weekend! Join your fellow Axiom-ites as we head to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner at 6pm, and then back to the House for a movie (TBD). Who knows, you may even meet your future ‘someone special’ on this date night…
Saturday, August 27th – CANOE TRIP!!!!!
Best. Event. Ever. Seriously. If you opt out of this one, you will probably, if not definitely, regret it. We’ll be meeting at the Axiom House at 8:30am on Saturday morning to head to Kickapoo State Park where we’ll spend the rest of the day getting to know one another while canoeing, eating our sack lunches, and swimming in the river. The cost is $16, and you need to get that money to J.D. Maloney no later than Wednesday (*ahem* Burgers, Bags, and Bocci). This is definitely something your friends would love for you to tell them about, so, go do it (also, SIGN UP HERE)!
See you soon! (and Welcome back to school!!)
Every year, Axiom gets together with a bunch of other campus ministries for Winter Retreat, and, every year, it’s amazing! Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it there in person this year, but, thankfully, there were plenty of Axiom-ites who were there to fellowship, worship, and soak up some awesome sermons. And even more thankfully, some of the students who went were kind enough to share their thoughts and experiences (don’t worry, I asked the hard questions, i.e. there’s more than a typical “retreat review” awaiting you). So, before I lose your attention, here’s what Axiom had to say about this year’s Winter Retreat.
“The Arcadian Way, the main street in Ephesus, was like the modern-day Strip in Las Vegas–it was the main hangout for partiers of all shapes and sizes. Our speaker, Brian Mills, gave us a tour of the Arcadian Way from the docks to the bathhouses to the temple of Artemis and beyond. The Christians in Ephesus were constantly surrounded by sin, so they thought they had two options–isolate themselves, or join in the revelry. The good news is that we don’t have to be extreme, there’s a third way. Christians can actually be involved in the world without taking part in sin, at least that’s what we learned on Winter Retreat.
The retreat this year was excellent. Brian Mills did a wonderful job comparing our society to Ephesus and getting us to consider whether we should take part in “Hipster Christianity” or not. The food (as always) was superb, and everyone enjoyed the games, which included an off-camp race to trade for bigger and better items, starting with a single rubber band. What made this retreat different for me, though, was how people from different schools really got to know each other. The people in my own small group bonded instantly, and we got to find out what students outside of the U of I were doing for God through personal questions, group discussions, and a Social Justice Workshop organized by Ben Woods. Axiom even adopted Brian Glyshaw from ISU, our very own Tyler clone! Overall, it was an experience that I want to have again.” – Sarah Stef
“The theme this year was all about “Hipster Christianity” and how we need to be ‘unhipped’ from society. Now, being a hipster myself (HA!), one of the sessions that really spoke out to me was about putting too much value into what we wear and how we wear it. Conviction. BUT my favorite session was Ben Woods’ talk on missions. I recently have felt a calling towards service and just having an active faith from God, and just seeing some ways to get involved was awesome.
My favorite part of the retreat as a whole was how close Axiom, as a ministry, got. We stayed up late playing fast uno, made a lot of jokes, played “chicken” on some cinderblocks, tested the 1 inch thick ice to see if it would hold us (don’t worry no one fell in!), and really built community through our talks. It was awesome not only talking to fellow Axiom-ites, but to other campus ministries as well. I know Axiom and Encounter really connected and we were able to hang out with them quite a bit. It was an awesome retreat!” – Tyler Yount
“This year’s Winter Retreat was my first Winter Retreat EVER, so I had no idea what to expect going into it; I just knew that while the Axiomites would be few, the Jesus Lovers (from other campuses) would be many! It actually seemed to work out to our advantage that we were small, because we were more willing to spread out and get to know others, rather than stay together as a collective unit. I got to meet so many new (and GREAT) people that were either in my small group, in our worship area, or in our UNO posse. The games that were planned were “Minute-to-win-it”-esque, which were not only hilariously fun, but also a piece of cake due to Battle of the Sexes ’11 (props to our dudes). But even the games couldn’t compare to the fellowship that happened over the weekend. I truly feel like I’m not only deeper in my relationship with Christ from the weekend, but I’m definitely more strongly bonded to my fellow Axiomites as well! Oh…and I have to add that the food was AWESOME!
Aside from the fellowship and funtivities, the message that came with the Winter Retreat was extremely important, especially for the U of I college campus. The focus was on what “being in the world, but not of it” looks like. The message was tailored to us in the form of “Hipster Christians”, where he spoke about how the latest fashions, trends, and attitudes fit into the Christian life. It was great to learn that while the Lord does not want us to immerse ourselves in what the world is doing, He also does not call us to remove ourselves entirely as the Jews did with the Gentiles. Learning what it is to be a Christian who doesn’t give in to sensual living was an awesome wealth of knowledge that was gained from the Winter Retreat. Be sure to go with me next year!” – Justin Pettit
Thanks so much to Sarah, Tyler, and JP for helping out!
Much love, guys!
On Friday, February 26th at approximately 7pm, an epic battle was waged for year-long bragging rights and an incredibly odd looking trophy. The war was masterfully planned, bravely fought, and ingeniously won… unless you’re a girl, like me, in which case it was bitterly lost. That’s right, for the third year in a row, the Axiom men, the Fonzies*, if you will, took home the gold! … Well, they kept the wooden bird(?) statue that looks more like the topper of a totem pole than a real trophy. And, yes, I do indeed know that I’m being a bit petty in my commentary, but like I said, the battle was bitterly lost; besides, read the title of this post, and take note of the occasional exclamation point associated with the men’s victory – I’m trying here, I really am… ish.
For those of you who were unable to be a part of this legendary event, below you will find evidence of the greatness that comes from pitting otherwise friendly, generous, and kind men and women against one another… I only wish I could offer you sound clips of the chants, the cheers, and the beautiful renditions of broadway songs that accompanied the competition (although you may in fact be able to hear some of them on Axiom’s YouTube channel). And for those of you lucky individuals who witnessed the magical three-peat victory (see guys, I really am trying!), I hope you too enjoy this walk down memory lane.**
*If you don’t get the Fonzie reference, I apologize, and I also encourage you to ask someone about the Fonzie/Sheila sermon series from a while back.
**Next year will be a different story. The girls will come back with a vengeance, boys, and we will beat you. Enjoy your victory while it lasts.
Picture this: it’s the first event of the night. We’ve just gotten back from dinner where the majority of us not only enjoyed delicious food, but also consumed some sort of caffeinated beverage. Combine that with the jittery energy of wanting to CRUSH your opponent, and the excitement of spending a night doing foolish things in front of your friends and a minister with a video camera. Now, enter the first challenge: hold this popsicle stick/tongue depressor in your mouth and stack five die on the end of it; you must hold this shaky tower of cubes for 3 seconds to come away victorious… yeah, it was intense.
Now, I’ll admit from here on out, the exact order of the events evades me, but that’s not really the important part anyway…
For this competition, you were made to stand next to your rival with a pedometer strapped to your forehead. At the signal, your one and only goal was to bang your head up and down faster, and thus “walk” farther, than your opponent for a full 60 seconds. I participated in one round of this event, and those 60 seconds felt like a lifetime! By the end of it, everyone who played was super dizzy, and just about ready to fall over, but it was hilarious and awesome – just check out the fantastic hair action here!
Also, as a note, not every event is pictured… there were a lot more battles than what this post leads you to believe.
I’m sure at one point or another, you’ve played the keep-the-balloon-off-the-ground game. But, I would venture to guess that you had only one balloon to keep track of, or if there were multiple balloons, there were also multiple players. At this year’s Battle, however, the balloon-to-person ratio was 3:1. If I remember correctly, you only had to keep the balloons (not filled with helium, btw) off the ground for 60 seconds, but once again, 60 seconds is a long time when the fate of your gender depends on your performance… note the concentration on their faces.
Axiom-ites are really, really cool… who else would agree to be filmed while doing stuff like this???
You’ve probably never tried this… or maybe you have; I guess I shouldn’t make assumptions… Anyway, for this challenge, you had to stack five chocolate-creme-filled snack cakes on our forehead with one hand, and balance them for three seconds. You were given one minute to complete the task, which was a good amount of time, but imagine leaning back and keeping perfectly still for a full 60 seconds; it’s like a prolonged wall-sit… only more upright, and with food on your face!
You are correct, sir/madam; in the picture below, that is indeed Rebekah, Battle of the Sexes 2011 emcee, dressed in an alligator suit. You simply cannot doubt our dedication.
Finally, all those times you sat in lecture, bored to tears, with nothing to entertain you but a trusty number two pencil with a surprisingly bouncy eraser on one end, pay off! Boo-yeah! The goal was this: bounce a pencil into each of the three glasses in 60 seconds. Thankfully, each competitor was allowed a pencil wrangler so that he/she didn’t have to frantically pick up the failed pencils on his/her own, but even so, this was not an easy task! Also, the action in this battle was so intense and fast paced that we didn’t get a clear shot of the boys until after they’d won this round…
By the way, that kind of intense celebration followed each and every round of each and every competition for both the men and the women. We take this VERY seriously.
In the red cup is a collection of m’ms (or maybe they were jelly beans, I’m not sure). The objective was to transport 10 of the colorful candies into the clear cup using only the straw (which you could not touch with anything other than your mouth). Before you freak out, we all used different straws, no worries. Also, this proved to be the most challenging event by far! I think we only had one person complete it in the alloted time; something about the surface area to suction ratio and stuff…
Just so you know, the girls were ahead for at least the first half of the night… Men, never forget that we almost had you!
This was the final game of the night: how fast can you empty a box of tissues using only one hand. Once again, you were alloted a helper – a tissue box holder – but while that prevented the box from moving around, it certainly did not stop discarded tissues from obscuring your vision and preventing you from getting a hold of the next one. Each picture from this event looks almost exactly the same, so I’m only gonna give you one, but take a moment to appreciate the looks on the faces of the crowd (even though they’re a little hard to see… all for one, and one for all! (Unless you’re on the other team, then you’re on your own.)
At the end of round three, it looked like it had snowed in the annex, which was ironic considering the absurd amount of snow on the ground outside at the time… remember the blizzard (and the snow day)… yeah, that was the same week.
And then the battle was over, and the war was won… by the men! Yay (if you could only hear the sarcasm in my voice)!! But, seriously, the guys took home yet another victory, solidifying their role as the current all-time champions of Axiom’s Battle of the Sexes! That’s right, they have won every. single. time. Ladies, I honestly don’t know what happened; we were so close for so long, and we had the energy, the strategy, and the desire! Next year… next year… next year is our year. And for those of you who have read through this post, laughed at my commentary, and yet feel as though I may be letting my bitterness get the best of me, take a good look at this picture. They talk smack too.
Battle of the Sexes 2011 may have been a three-peat, but it was certainly not an easy battle, nor was it a shut out. Fonzies, one day the Shelias will rise up, and you too will taste the bitterness of defeat! But, until then, I sincerely hope you enjoy yet another year of victory, the memory of which will warm your hearts next year (when the girls dominate).
“I came to dance, dance, dance, dance, yeah… Give me some space for both my hands, hands, hands, hands… I throw my hands up in the air sometimes sayin’…” “Just Dance! Gonna be O.K. (da-da, doo-doo), just Dance…” because “when the music drops, we both put our hands up… so dance, dance like it’s the last, last night of your life, life…”
*Try reading that out loud for a good laugh.*
Last Saturday from 8-11pm, just over 50 people danced the night away at Axiom’s first ever Formal! There was rockin’ music, sparkly lights, candy, pretty dresses, balloons, awesome masks (it was a masquerade themed dance, after all), and, of course, lots of really cool people having a great time! The Axiom Formal was more than just a chance to dance like crazy with all of our friends, however. It was also the first missions trip fundraising event of the school year! By the end of the night, we had raised a little more than $300 for the trip to Romania in May! Basically, the night was a huge success, which means that, hopefully, the Axiom Formal will be something of a tradition in the years to come! (*If you missed it this year, try not to be too bummed; you may have another chance to get in on the fun next fall!)
At the risk of turning this into an obnoxiously long and awkward acceptance speech from an awards ceremony, I do want to take a moment and say thank you, because I know first-hand just how much work went in to making this event happen. To the four lovely ladies who worked alongside me to sort through all of the little details – you rock! And to the rest of you – those who offered suggestions and advice, requested songs, danced in our announcement videos, gave donations, offered encouragement, bought tickets, brought friends, danced with us, helped set-up and tear-down, transported our stuff back and forth – we couldn’t have done any of it without you! Thanks for “taking care of business and working over time!”
Being that this was the first of its kind for Axiom, we did learn a few key things about the members of our ministry, and how to host a successful dance. First, Axiom-ites are fantastic dancers (“I like to move it, move it!”). Second, candy is always a great idea. Third, have a few people on hand who know how to fix the speakers when they start acting up. Fourth, Axiom-ites are all for supporting a good cause. Fifth, the Cha-Cha Slide never fails to bring every single person to the dance floor (“to the left now, ya’ll”). Sixth, Axiom-ites are classy dressers. Seventh, everyone claps along to Are You Gonna Be My Girl (“1, 2, 3, take my hand and follow me…”). And, finally, we’re all really excited about the upcoming trip to Romania!
PS. The first Axiom-ite to comment with the name/artist of every song referenced in this post will get a candy bar of their choice from me!
This fall, the Axiom Service Team came up with a great new way to show love on our campus! Here’s what Sarah and JP, two of our Service Team leaders, had to say about the Axiom Rake Raids:
Before last month, Axiom didn’t really know who our neighbors were, and we weren’t into that; we wanted to get to know them! So on October 15th and 22nd, we set out from the Axiom House with a mission to be good neighbors; to show that we’re not just concerned about the people in our ministry, but that we care about those outside of it too. How did we show our love? By raking yards!
While it might not sound like a HUGE service for a bunch of college kids to have their yards raked, it’s not about the AMOUNT that we do, but the way that we do it… and we ROCKED! With 15+ people showing up to each Rake Raid, we stuffed over 50 yard bags full of leaves, hit about 15 houses, and made several new friends.
With each new house, we experienced quite a bit of suspicion when we introduced ourselves. People were baffled as to why we wanted to rake their yards… even to the point that several people thought we wanted donations. They just couldn’t believe that we were doing something for them, for nothing! A few of our neighbors were just as excited to meet us as we were to meet them; some even mentioned that they had always been curious about us, and now had a good reason to check Axiom out!
We took it one step further by giving them cookie dough once the job was done. The shock on our neighbors’ faces was priceless… they couldn’t decide how to react to this random act of kindness. Some thought it was the weirdest thing they’d seen all year (and considering we’re on a college campus, that’s pretty funny), and some thought it was the greatest thing in the world – like that cookie dough was pure gold!
And that was the point. We wanted to make a connection; do something nice. This was just one way for us to open a door into their lives. On those two Fridays, we went out and gave up our afternoons to love on people; most of whom probably aren’t used to experiencing unconditional love. Raking yards may not seem like that big of a deal, but then again, neither does washing feet.
We have one last Rake Raid coming up on Friday, Nov 12th. from 4 to 5:30pm. We really want to push this one and see if we can get the biggest turn out yet! The cool thing about service, is that it’s not all about you… in fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s all about the other person: what you can do for them, no strings attached and no questions asked. When you serve someone, you have no room to be selfish; if you’re thinking about yourself and what you can get out of the experience, then you’re probably missing the point. But, in a lot of cases when you serve, there are rewards. You know you did something for the betterment of another person, and maybe now he/she will share that service or love with someone else. You’re doing some good in the world; you’re being Christ to those around you, and that’s a reward in and of itself. November 12th is the last Raid of the semester, and you don’t want to miss out on this fantastic opportunity. See you there!
Sarah Dexter and Justin Pettit
With the temperature dropping and winter looming, spring seems like a lifetime away. Actually though, May is only seven months away! Now, I realize that for some of you, seven months may seem like an eternity, but for those of you who are graduating it probably feels like May is right around the corner. For Axiom too, May 2011 is fast approaching, not because of graduation or sweet summer time, but because of our spring missions trip! After all the final exams and graduation ceremonies are over, a group of Axiom students will be traveling to Tinca, Romania to love on some beautiful gypsy children! We’ll be serving at Forget Me Not Ministries, founded and directed by Rachel Ross. Rachel operates The Isaiah Center, which focuses on providing stability and nurturing neglected children by meeting their emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and social needs. FMN’s focus is on the Roma (Gypsy) children of Romania, specifically in Tinca, which has one of the largest Roma villages in the county (http://www.fmnministries.org). For ten days, we will be helping to complete manual labor projects, sort donations and serve in any other way that we can.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).
Every child needs and deserves love. We’re responding to Christ’s call by getting in there, getting our hands dirty, and loving on these kids.
If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it is. In May of 2009, Axiom sent a team of students to Rachel and FMN to begin a relationship with her ministry and show love and support for the work she’s doing there. We’ve chosen to return to Romania this year to further cement our relationship with the ministry and demonstrate our dedication to these kids. Our goal over the next few years is to establish similar relationships with a few different ministries all over the world in hopes of embarking on return trips in the future. Our desire for this trip is the same desire that fuels so much of what we do every day on campus – to have a lasting impact on the Kingdom and to be Christ to a broken world.
If you’re at all interested in going on the Romania missions trip in May, start praying about it! Then, talk to Ben Woods, who is leading the trip (firstname.lastname@example.org), and pick up an application at the house. Applications and deposits are due on November 11th – that’s in 13 days!
If you’re looking for ways to partner with our ministry on this trip, start praying! Pray that God would move in the hearts and minds of our students, preparing us all for what’s sure to be a life changing ten days. You can also check out our website (www.illinoisaxiom.com) for more information on upcoming fundraising events and ways to give.
Cu Mult Iubire,
If you are, or have ever been, a student, then you know that campus life is BUSY. As if classes, homework and exams weren’t enough, there are all those group meetings, advisor appointments, jobs, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, that whole planning-for-your-future thing, friends, and, oh yeah, mom asked you to call home tonight too. I don’t know about you, but as the semester goes by, I find myself wishing more and more for a pause button. It would be just like the one on your TV remote, but rather than getting Jim to hold off on pranking Dwight just long enough for you to run to the kitchen for a snack, my button would make everything stop for a bit while you catch your breath. Unfortunately, my pause button is nothing more than a beautiful dream. Thankfully, there’s a lovely thing called Fall Retreat that serves almost the same purpose as this nonexistent button!
Each year, Axiom’s Fall Retreat is a chance for students to get off campus and away from distractions, to bond with their fellow Axiom-ites, and to be immersed in God’s word. This year, we headed down to Springfield, IL to spend September 24th and 25th at Lake Springfield Christian Assembly. In addition to a building where we held worship, the camp grounds were complete with playgrounds, a gym to play basketball in and, of course, a beautiful lake. It was the perfect place to forget about the demands of school and get lost in the beauty and majesty of the Lord. We even got the chance on Friday night to worship our glorious Creator around a campfire beneath a blanket of stars. As we sang and prayed it was easy to feel God’s presence, and to see that He is constantly working and moving in each our lives.
The topic of the retreat this year was the Power of Forgiveness: What’s so good about loving your enemy? Dr. Gayle L. Reed from the University of Wisconsin was our guest speaker. She specializes in Christian forgiveness counseling, and offered many valuable insights into what forgiveness is and is not, as well as how to grant forgiveness and how to receive it. Aside from the three main sessions, we also spent time in small groups discussing what we were learning, and some of the hurts in each of our lives that require forgiveness in one form or another. Dr. Reed explained that, like many other things Jesus asks us to do, forgiveness is not always easy. It’s often a messy process, and it takes time. Moreover, in our society, the words “I forgive you” have begun to lose their meaning. However, forgiveness isn’t just saying the words, nor is it pretending that everything is okay again when it isn’t. Instead, it’s recognizing the shared humanity between you and the person who’s hurt you, and allowing the grace and love of Jesus Christ to heal you both. It was certainly not the most lighthearted of topics, but it was one to which nearly everyone could relate.
By the end of the weekend, we had formed stronger bonds with each other, because for two days, we weren’t crazed, sleep deprived college students leading separate lives – we were a community of Christ followers learning how to live out our faith in a broken world. When we got back to campus Saturday night, we were recharged and re-centered, ready to take on everything campus life had to throw at us. Experiences like Fall Retreat are the closest I’ve ever come to actually finding a pause button that works on the real world. In fact, I think they’re probably better than any button could ever be.
Just in case you don’t want to take my word for it when I say that Fall Retreat was awesome, here are a few of the highlights!
The best part of Fall Retreat was…
- “singing around the campfire, and enjoying the company of others as we lifted praises to God.” – J.D. Maloney
- “singing and praying around the campfire, and learning a lot about self-forgiveness.” – Derek Walsh
- “worshiping God in a community… and bonding with so many lovely people.” – Christine Shukis
- “worship! And I loved playing basketball. And I loved just learning about God with my favorite people.” – Kayla Campbell
P.S. Bummed that you missed Fall Retreat? Be sure to attend Axiom’s Winter Retreat after Christmas break!