Back to School: Wesley Foundation Enriches the College Experience
As summer winds to a close, students return to the dorms and campuses across Texas, blessed to find campus ministries like the Wesley Foundation at Texas Southern University. Several active students share their experiences in anticipation of new students joining their ranks in the oncoming weeks.
Summer break-- what’s that? College pastors like Rev. Julius Wardley are driven by a passion for students that keeps them focused and busy – all year long, something the TSU students profiled below sincerely appreciate.
“This summer, we have focused our energy on leadership development and practicing the spiritual disciplines,” he says. “We have also reached out to all the United Methodist churches in the conference seeking to minister to any student that plans on attending Texas Southern University in the fall. Our goal is to make the transition from high school to college easier and to provide students a home away from home. At the end of the 2014 spring semester, we were averaging 75-plus students a week.”
Wesley Foundations serve as the bridge between the church and the campus –allowing the UMC to share God’s grace and love to these students who are thankful to know that someone cares about them and that they are beloved children of God. Young adults at the pivotal age during college are grateful to have a spiritual anchor at the TSU Wesley Foundation. “Coming to TSU for me was as much a spiritual decision as it was an educational or economic one,” says pharmacy student Onyeka Onyekwelu. “I came in with the hopes of learning about people and seeing how I could impact their lives -- not simply with the teaching of Jesus Christ, but also through my own words and actions.”
For two years, she admits keeping a low profile. “I was willing to live my life in a manner conducive to my Christian walk, and really only shared my faith when asked, but upon discovering the Wesley Foundation, I found a new outlet to do the things that I had always wanted to do. I got a chance to serve the homeless, to talk about my Christian walk without feeling like I was intruding on anyone's personal beliefs, and also to explore different outlets of spirituality.”
Looking back, she feels her most intriguing experience to date was feeding the homeless. “It not only reminded me of the times of poverty that I grew up in,” she adds, “it also reminded me that sometimes I truly do take things for granted. Feeding the homeless helped keep me grounded during a year in which so many good things happened for me. It reminded me to not forget the reason I chose Texas Southern University in the first place -simply to help heal the world. My time helping with the Wesley Foundation has helped me more than I anticipated.”
May graduates, Kayleen Bokassa and Matt Hayes encourage all college students to plug into a Wesley Center. Matt shares, “From the moment I was introduced to the Wesley Foundation, it was nothing short of a blessing to me each and every day. It felt like a second home, a place where I could sit and recollect myself in the overwhelming college atmosphere. This was displayed through the continuous acts of generosity that the Wesley Foundation exemplifies time and time again. Basically, students needing help with anything can be assured that the Wesley Foundation is the place to go.”
The Foundation helped Kayleen with many challenges academically, emotionally and spiritually. “Having a child my freshman year, trying to balance a new marriage and making sure that I'm taking proper care of my widowed mother was an overwhelming task,” she shares. “Soon, I began to lose focus on college. I’m blessed to say I ultimately received honors in school with Reverend Wardley’s helpful tips on planning.
With the Wesley Foundation keeping its doors open and allowing us to utilize the computers, printers and supplies, I was able to be in a peaceful setting and focus on what had to get done. By the grace of God and the Texas Southern University Wesley Foundation, I graduated with my first degree and will be pursuing my MBA and Juris Doctorate. This ministry allowed me to truly understand the meaning of purpose. What God really wants from us, is just us.”
Texas Southern University kickoffs on August 25th and the Wesley Foundation is eager to share the love of Christ to the University’s faculty, staff and students. Notes Julius, “We kickoff every semester with a large event to jump start our semester and to share God’s love to the campus community. These have included events such as Dee Jays and barbecues, Pamper Yourself Days, lyricist lounges and they attract hundreds of students to our buildings and ministry. After a couple of ‘Attracting Events’, we then follow with ‘Grow Events’ that seek to minister to students’ minds, hearts and souls. We have three ‘Grow Events’ per week. On Tuesday evenings, we have a Taste of Christianity that provides freshman and transfer students an opportunity to learn the basics of Christianity and the importance of community. On Wednesdays, we offer ‘Lunch and Explore’ -- a time in which we examine subject matters that are relevant to students lives such as building and maintaining healthy relationships. On Thursdays, we have ‘Lunch and Connec’t for students to connect with one another and to strengthen their relationships with God.”
Investing in the Young: Impacting Lives
Hearing student feedback year after year makes it all worthwhile. Adds Julius, “My passion is sowing into young adults and helping them to grow holistically. Many of these students are learning who they are and who they are called to be. They are also making vocational choices and for the first time many are choosing to follow Jesus for themselves and I’m grateful to offer a safe place for them to learn about God’s love.”