Jay & Kelley Reapsome - serving with CRU/Bridges International at Penn State
(Newsletter from Jay)
As we disciple young Christian international students we find there are several things that hinder them from making time to seek the Lord and have fellowship with believers. There are three main categories for these distractions: academics (being the top of your class and getting more degrees), career (beefing up your resume, finding a good internship, developing their network among the right people and securing a high paying job) and social life (hanging out with peers and experiencing more of the American student social life).
Many times we see Satan using these earthly goals to distract our students from pursing God. The spiritual battle for their hearts brings regular attacks on their faith and knowledge of God, Jesus and the Bible. Please pray with us for God to put a hunger in their hearts to know Him more and invest their lives in things that are eternal! Even in the midst of these struggles we’re encouraged by the steps some students are taking to initiate spiritual conversations with other international students. Pray for them to draw strength from God to follow His will even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.
The Lord has given us channels to make a connection with students through Bible studies or English lessons (200 students involved). However, there are still thousands with whom we have few opportunities to make significant contact. Most commonly these are students from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds.
Our demonstration wedding on Oct 16th, is one way God has given us to build a bridge with these students. There were over 100 students who attended this event. Most were Chinese, but there were a few students from Arabic nations and even more Indian students attending who heard the testimony of both the bride and groom (American newlyweds). Some students indicated they would like to meet with us to find out more about our group. Please pray for friendships to be establish during follow-up connections and for the Lord to open doors for the Gospel.
As we continue to build relationships with the students the Lord led us this semester, we see the Spirit of God moving in their hearts. There are five young Chinese students in my investigative Bible studies. Tim, Jim, Jared, David and Stewart are all eager to learn about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian.
After our second lesson in the book of Genesis David asked these questions, “Why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden if He wanted people to have continued fellowship with Him?” and “Since God can forgive anyone, why doesn’t He forgive everyone? Then no one would need to die!” God is drawing David to Himself through His Word.
Both Tim and Jim have shared that they want to believe, but they don’t think they know enough about God, Jesus and the Bible to believe yet. Please ask God to help these students to understand more about Him, Jesus and the Christian life as they study the Bible each week! I believe they are growing closer to having saving faith.
We are so grateful to the Lord for you and your involvement with us as we reach students for Christ! We would not be able to take the Gospel to students who have never heard without you!
Until the whole world knows,
Jay & Kelley
(Newsletter from Kelley)
Hello Dear Ones!
I hope you are having a wonderful autumn as richly colored leaves declare the glory of God. We have had an unusually warm season and it is so inspiring to be out on campus enjoying the warm air, sunshine, green grass, colorful leaves and blue sky. (Reminds me of Cali this time of year.) Penn State is beautiful and the landscaping department has done a wonderful job of providing plants and trees to give delight through all the seasons. Every day on campus is an enjoyable gift of beauty for me.
Being able to enjoy the weather while also seeing the Lord work in student’s lives has been fun too. Since August I have been happy to have dozens of great conversations with new students while also continuing to disciple the women God has raised up over the last couple of years. In an effort to protect their privacy, the stories I share will be a bit ‘generic’. To God be the glory for the prayers He is answering!
Kelsey, an undergrad from Nigeria, has spent most of her life in the UK with her family (only ages 8-11 in Nigeria). Also from a ‘strongly traditional’ background, she told me she wanted to begin to study the Bible. Of course, the first step in this process was to share the Gospel with her. As we walked through the Gospel it was obvious her eyes were being opened to understand that no amount of ‘good works’ could bridge the gap between a Holy God and her personal sin. Her questions and comments confirmed her understanding and she did not hesitate to say this was the first time she really understood why Jesus had to die. She also immediately and with certainty expressed her faith in Christ’s death on the cross for her sin, receiving His free gift of forgiveness and new spiritual life in Christ! (New Life in September! Angels celebrating!))
Pam saw our club on-line and asked one of our staff for a ride to our Bridges Community Fellowship Night (which we host in our home on Saturdays.) Pam had a Christian roommate in her home country who didn’t explain her faith or invite her to Bible studies, even though Pam was interested. Pam finally learned why. It seems her roommate was being watched by government officials b/c she came from a well-known Christian family in her home (EAsian) province. When Pam came to the US she was involved in Christian clubs but says she still didn’t understand what it meant to be a Christian. When I shared the Gospel with her she said, “I have heard each of these things separately, but never in such a clear way to understand what it means to put my faith in Christ and His death as the payment for my sin. Yes, I now understand and am ready to make this decision today.” (New Life in October! Angels rejoicing!)
Emily, from the Middle East, asked to meet together for ‘coffee’ and talk about our Christian club. As we talked through the photographs of the ‘heart mirror’ outreach tool it became clear that she has a firm belief in a personal God, but rejected the faith of her homeland due to the events which have been unfolding there. Her distrust of Islam and fear for herself and her family was palpable. She expressed her interest in Jesus and wanted to know how faith in Jesus was ‘different’ from the Koran. This opened up the opportunity to share that Christians believe Jesus is God’s Son (not just a prophet) who was sent to pay for sin. This led to an almost complete Gospel presentation (without offering the opportunity to express faith, which she was not ready to do.) Emily was clearly moved and interested to know more. We continue to interact.
Several young women from East Asia have had the opportunity to study here in America at Christian High Schools while living with Christian host families. Some of them have put their faith in Christ, others have not. Some of these freshmen women attend our weekly community times where we have dinner, worship, Bible Study and fellowship. Please pray for decisions!
There are more stories but no more room! I hope you are encouraged by these examples of how God is working to reveal Himself to students I am privileged to be meeting with here at Penn State. Even while He is revealing Himself to these younger women I see Him also raising up ‘disciples’, the older students who are beginning to care for one another and grow as a community. To God be the glory!
Please pray for the continued growth of these young believers, that their hunger to grow would overcome their sense of being overwhelmed by their school work. Please pray that we become a hospitable and loving community of believers who enjoy and love God with our hearts and lives every single day. I have been asking the Lord for miracles as He helps me take increasing steps of faith as a light and voice for Him. It is a privilege to see how God has worked to prepare hearts and allowed me to share His Gospel with those who have been ready to respond.
In the midst of some health concerns (spiritual-battle distractions) I am reminded that GOD IS AT WORK REVEALING HIMSELF, preparing hearts of students to want to know Him. My simple part is to be yielded, dependent and available to meet and share with those in whom He is working. Thank you for making this possible!
Pim, from Kenya and the child of a UN worker, was raised with lots of rules/traditions of the local ‘faith’ and little personal friendship with God. This didn’t deter her from believing in God, but she was happier when she attended a boarding school for high school which was a little less legalistic. She came to me with a desire to know God and with a belief that God could be real and personal (but she hadn’t yet ‘figured it out’). She also said she respected her Christian friends who seemed to experience God as their ‘friend’. She wanted this. As we went through the Gospel she said, “This is so clear. Yes, this is what I want.” With tears in her eyes she put her faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for her sins and began her new life (New Life in November! Party above!)
Three of the freshmen women are engineering majors, the other two are in mathematics. All five are very challenged with the intensity of their schoolwork while also adjusting to roomates, the US and State College. These freshmen are from China, the UK, and Nigeria. Please join me in praying for them to hunger for Christ and make a commitment to being in a small group or attending our weekly fellowship.
One Master’s student from Turkey met with me on a bench in the sunshine several weeks ago and we hit it off right away. We shared about our lives while using the ‘heart mirror’ or ‘Soularium’ photos and questions. In answer to the question ‘which photographs best represent what you WISH your life was like right now?’, she chose the commercial airplane picture and explained that 2 days before she left home to come to PSU she learned her dad has lung cancer and would soon be starting chemotherapy. Her parents insisted that she come to school but she desperately wished to be at her father’s side ‘just in case’ he didn’t make it.’
We spent two hours talking about her situation and about her belief in God. She was absolutely certain there is a “God” and she quickly told me she wanted to know more about Jesus and Christianity b/c her own faith background doesn’t have the answers to sin, forgiveness and peace. I was happy to be able to summarize what the Bible says about those topics (the Gospel!) and how Christ, who is personal, has changed my life. She was very interested and candid and we planned to meet again soon. Due to me becoming ill, then her becoming ill and now leaving for home (her father recently passed away) we have not been able to meet each other again. We HAVE had many long texting discussions. My teammates sometimes see her on Friday nights at their ‘community group’, so we are trying to help and support her during this difficult semester and with the grief she now has. Please pray for Emily as she seeks to find God, that she will have her eyes opened to the Truth and will put her faith in Christ.
Just last week I met another young woman, Song, who wanted a language partner. As she told me her ‘life story’ (18yo) in English it became clear that she is a believer and has a heart to share the Gospel and reach the world. Since she is already well-connected in the Korean church I did not wish to pull her away from her community, but she did accept my invitation to join me in discussions with other students using the Soularium cards or surveys in the student union. Please PRAY that the Lord will use our time together for His glory, that she will grow and be a fruitful follower of Christ.
The young women who went home to Asia last summer returned with interesting stories about God working in their lives, some taking teeny steps of faith, others larger. Trusting the Lord to help them reach their parents, family and friends is a big step to pray and trust God for. Some have one parent who is a believer, but most have no believing family members. These young women are not only growing in their love for and trust in God, but they are developing a loving community which the younger girls are starting to find attractive. This was evident recently as we hosted a ‘Halloween Party’ and these women and a couple of Jay’s guys helped me with many different parts of the preparation work. They enjoyed preparing food together (frosting and decorating cupcakes/cookies, preparing a veggie tray, setting the self-serve table). They also took the initiative to greet the guests (total of about 40 internationals) and help them feel at home. Please pray that we would see miraculous growth and fruit in individuals and our community as week seek Christ together.
We are thankful to be co-laboring with you in this ministry!
Lacey and Adam have become parents to Micah James. He was born 4 weeks early with a ‘ghost placenta’ attached to his own, both of which were attached to the uterus and failed to be expelled. Therefore, Lacey had to have a D&C after the delivery to avoid hemorrhage and infection. She has made a nice recovery and it is ‘fine’ to see my independent oldest child responding to the awakened ‘nurture, provide and protect’ hormones as she cares for him. Adam is working hard to provide for their family in his new contracting business. On a recent visit he took care of some plumbing issues we had in our home.
Laura glows as she cares for her home, her garden and her little boys, Willie (2) and Riah (4mo). She recently surprised me with a wonderful birthday luncheon and invited two friends from our old church so we could reconnect after years of being too busy. It was such a nice time together and Laura was a wonderful hostess. Will also works in contracting and has been ‘on the road’ quite a bit this fall while Laura covers the home front.
Ben continues to enjoy the ‘granite’ business and gets to use his ‘detail’ strengths to perform quality work and serve their customers well. This is his favorite time of year (hunting season) and he went bow hunting for the first time. Buck season is coming, a cause for much excitement around here!
Jon has just two more semesters after this to finish his degree at Millersville University in Music Business. He has a full class load plus 3 jobs so we don’t get to see him much. (He is also almost 3 hours away.)
Amy is now studying at Penn State for Restaurant and Hotel Management while also working 30 plus hours on the weekends for Olive Garden. She has recently been training new employees in all different areas of work.
Anna lives at home and commutes to Lockhaven daily (45 minutes away). She enjoys her accounting and business major so far. She has made a friend who shares her exact birthday (born hours apart) and has the exact same class schedule. She has made many new friends, is learning rock climbing and repelling in her free time and also finds time for body building and running to stay fit.
Daniel has a renewed interest in school as two of his computer technology teachers have noticed his skill and given him the opportunity to teach other students the subjects of programming and web-site design. One of the teachers has also given him the opportunity to be employed by a local start-up as a web designer and techie for their company. He has just begun a 30 day trial period. The stress of having a busy schedule is helping his time-management skills. Whew! He is a junior in high school this year and will turn 17 on December 1st.
After a lifetime of having people in and out of our home we still have yet to understand this whole ‘empty nest’ thing. With Daniel and Anna still living at home, Ben’s weekend visits, Amy’s occasional drop-ins, Laura and Lacey’s visits (with our 3 grandbabies), the likelihood of having an ‘empty nest’ doesn’t seem plausible. We also have a good many international college students in and out of our home as well. Rarely is there a dull moment (most moments are invested in caring for someone or something).
Jay & Kelley Reapsome, Cru/Bridges International
1359 Deerfield Dr, State College, PA 16803