By Rev. Dr. Sunny Farley

More than eighty college students from Texas and Louisiana came together in the Texas Hill Country last month for a week of mission work and fellowship through College U.M. ARMY.

This year’s theme was “Fearless” and included projects in San Marcos and Gruene – like the construction of accessibility ramps and repair work on homes damaged by a recent tornado.

The 2024 College U.M. ARMY was co-directed by Anna Shipley, Director of College Camp and Rio Texas U.M. ARMY Coordinator, and Rev. Bryan Jody, Associate Pastor at A&M UMC.

Shipley said this year’s event was special because there was a real momentum felt during the week.

“After a successful relaunch in 2023, our new statewide model of young adult U.M. ARMY has begun to thrive with a new wave of energy,” she said.

“This year we were grateful to welcome over 83 registered participants, almost doubling our 2023 participant number. We had participants from 12 different young adult ministries – a mixture of Wesley Foundations, local church ministries, and several individual participants.”

Jody said one student flew from El Paso to Austin at his own expense to participate in the mission week.

“It just shows how bad he wanted to be there,” Jody said.

The students worked hard on repairs to a tornado-stricken trailer and building ramps that give those with disabilities easier access in and out of their homes.

The team stayed at Gruene UMC and showered at a nearby senior living facility. Every morning they made sack lunches for themselves and for the clients they serve. Over lunch, the workers and clients at each work site held devotionals as they ate.

This gave everyone an opportunity to get to know one another, leaders said.

Kyle Tremblay, Director and Campus Minister at Wesley Foundation at Lamar University, said one of the connections made during the week was profound for its work team.

“During our lunch devotionals we shared stories. We shared about our faith and how God is present in our lives,” Tremblay said. “One of the clients asked for prayer for her granddaughter who is facing a potential cancer diagnosis. It was a holy and sacred moment. This woman met us just 24 hours prior and she was comfortable enough with us to be able to pray and share with us.”

He said “Fearless” was a good theme for the group who participated this year.

“These college students have to have faith and trust in God with the big and little things in their lives,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage to continue on, to trust and it’s a powerful message not just for college student, but for the Church in general.”

Shipley said U.M. Army strives to place equal emphasis on service, worship and fellowship.

Throughout the week, students engaged in worship, work and interactive prayer stations. They also had “Taylor Swift Night,” trivia night and spent a day tubing the tubing the Comal River thanks to a member of the host church who owns an RV park with river access.

The last Friday of the week, the group had “client night” when clients and mission teams come together for a meal and a time of sharing what the week meant to them.

Shipley said the students showed tremendous love toward the clients.

“These students not only care for their clients, but they also care for one another,” she said. “The community formed throughout our mission week was diverse, inclusive, and characterized by compassion.”

She said the energy has led to important conversations about other opportunities for collaborative efforts among campus ministries.

Jody said U.M. ARMY is something that gives him hope for the Church.

“Doing ministry together with college students is something everyone can be part of or, better yet, come see,” he said. Next year’s College U.M. ARMY will be May 11-17. For more information, contact Shipley at (469) 601-8115 or .