Thoughts Thus Far:
This has been an amazing week. I'm really glad to be here doing this, now. Being on Penn State's campus is wild enough, so I'm really happy that I'm on campus with no agenda other than meeting and caring for people. I don't have to worry about getting to class on time, there is no scrambling to finish papers over meals, no studying, just living.
A typical weekly hour break-down is as follows:
Outreach Time: 25 hours
Office Time: 5 hours
Personal Bible Study: 10 hours
Large Group Study:10 hours
Discipleship: 10 hours
It's a great life. There have been some growing pains of learning how to balance my time appropriately. We have a scheduled Guy's Night on Sundays, dinner with my roommates scheduled for every Tuesday, dinners and sharing time with the entire internship group on Wednesdays, outreach team meeting times, and discipleship times with certain people. With a vision of really honoring the Lord and desiring intimacy within the group we interns have entered into this summer without putting up walls or pretenses to our relationships. While we find room to grow in trust, we share an assumed security in the Lord which allows us to be vulnerable and to share our lives with each other. We are imperfect beings, full of faults, and tendencies to think more about ourselves than others, but God is granting us a sense of unity that excites us all.
My time on campus has been really thrilling so far. I ran into a guy who was on my Tennis team back in High School for two years (he moved before my senior year). He goes to Penn State during the yearz and over the summer works as an RA of sorts. I also ran into a guy who was in our Jr. High Fellowship at church when I was in 7th and 8th grades and I haven’t seen since. I have had opportunities to catch up with them, play basketball, be taken around the dorms, and hang out with them.
There are many differences between Muhlenberg and Penn State. It's funny, because Penn State being such larger school, I've noticed a lot of people who feel lonely and live like a lone wolf here. At Muhlenberg, you may not know everyone you pass on the sidewalk, but usually, no matter who it is (unless they are listening to music or are on the phone) you'll at least get the head-nod of recognition and even often a "hello." At Penn State, very few people tend to even make eye contact in passing. I suppose that just comes with the territory, but It was an almost jarring contrast. I'm not a very big "people person" but I’ve come to expect a certain level of human interaction and simply recognizing the existence of other people on the sidewalks, eateries, sitting areas, and gyms strikes me as basic human decency. It's likely the reason that big cities freak me out. I understand that because there are so many people in one place you can't take time out for all of them, but it feels so odd to me that there can be so many people living on top of each other and for them not to be interacting with one another at all.
Scanning the eateries on campus shows me what it means to be alone in a huge crowd. At Muhlenberg, we have a central dining location where everyone eats. It's a place where people go to NOT work. It's where we come to expect to meet people and look forward to an enjoyable conversation, even after all of the food has been eaten. At Muhlenberg it's not the case that we never eat alone, but that's only a "sometimes" thing. Here at Penn State I'm shocked at how many people can be in the same cafeteria and not be interacting at all. 8 out of 10 people will have books and homework with them --- I've never seen many students study during meals. If they aren’t studying they all have newspapers or headphones. This is a world full of people, but they seem to be working hard at making their worlds much smaller and living in their own little world customized to their preferences.
I met a student who invited me to eat lunch with him. He goes to Penn State during the school year too and the one week he was home between then and summer session his girlfriend broke up with him. He lives in a dorm here during the summer and there is no air-conditioning there. His randomly assigned roommate spends most of his time at his girlfriend’s place (who does have air-conditioning). As he and I were eating the roommate approached him to let him know that the TV had been moved over to the girlfriend’s place. I don’t think he intended to be so honest, but he revealed a lot of hurt that he has to me. This is a guy who feels very alone on a big campus. I am a guy who feels very lucky to have the opportunity to be financially supported to be able to spend time with people like this. The girlfriend who broke up with him had been encouraging him to be involved in a church during the school year (as he did faithfully attend one back at home) but he never did his two years there. Perhaps the one preacher I know who has the deepest knowledge of the scriptures and the keenest ability to share it shared once in a talk that the reason he first went (as a non-believer) to a bible study was because he wanted to impress a girl there. I have also seen that tendency in myself and it is a blessing to see how the different ways that God ends up drawing people to Himself. So when I eat lunch with a guy who was just grateful that I was there with him, was listening to him, and sharing stories from my own life and he ends the conversation by explaining that he already had plans to go away for the weekend but when he gets back that he wants to know if there were any Bible studies that he could be involved in I get pretty excited.
I met another guy who was playing basketball all by himself. I went over there and asked to play too. He proceeded to explain to me he hates school here, he’s studying a major that his parents pressured him into that he doesn’t enjoy, and that even though other people on his hall watch the NBA Championships, everyone watches by themselves in their own rooms. He’s alone on a campus full of people. The next day he saw me standing by a sign up table for our Christian fellowship. I called him up later that night offering to take him out to dinner off campus (using the funds I raised to take him out) because he told me during basketball that he only ever eats at the cafeteria and doesn’t like it. He called back later explaining that my message “weirded him out” and that he doesn’t want to join a Bible study. I hadn’t yet invited him to one and tried to explain to him I still wanted to hang out with him anyway. Some stories don’t end as well as others and God is teaching me to trust him still.
When I was hanging out in the Student Union building I was asked to be in a photo shoot. Myself and two other students were taken to a pond and were positioned so it looked like we were studying. We had a great time getting to know each other as they worked on getting the perfect shot. So come Sepetember my picture will be on the main home page of www.psu.edu as an example of the model PSU student. Remind me to check it out
The other night I ran into some guys juggling a soccer ball on the same basketball court I had earlier met the “weirded out” guy on. Another way that Penn State is different from Muhlenberg is in student diversity. I ended up playing some pick-up soccer with a guy from South Korea, a guy from Ethiopia, one from Kuwait, and one from Scranton, PA. We had a blast and played for two and a half hours. I had lunch today with the guy from South Korea. He and the one from Kuwait have only been in America for one month. He had some fascinating stories to share and I loved hearing about some of the differences between US and South Korea. He took initiative to share a lot with me. Afterwards we watched some of the European Soccer tournament together in the union on a big screen TV with at least twenty other soccer fans (see picture).
Wow… I feel like I just barely started to write, but it seems like I’ve gone on quite a bit already. It’s only been one week and I am experiencing a mix of feelings as if I have been here a long time (so much has already happened) and that I am new here without a clue of what’s going on. I am still learning a lot of things (such as places I can or can not park on campus, the cheapest places to eat, the way to and from campus from our apartment, which streets are only “One Way” and how to navigate across town without leaving town entirely. I haven’t yet learned the proper etiquette for sharing one basketball when two of you are shooting hoops together or how to share about experiences with people online without using their names. Often, I enter a building from one door, walk around, believe I am exiting out the same door and find myself in an entirely different world than I expected to be in. I’m still trying to learn street and building names. I think I’m getting a good grip on which fields are most likely to have people throwing Frisbees on.
Sometimes, getting lost is just the best way to explore.
Today, 33 people checked this web page. When I saw that I felt incredibly cared for (and it inspired me to actually take the time to write all of this down!) This first week has been great and I want to share it with you all. If I’m not explaining things very well, or if you have questions, if some of my terms confuse you, etc. please comment, e-mail, or call me. I can even post answers to really helpful questions here on this page for others to see and read. This is going to be a great summer, thanks for being a part of it!
My internship roommate, Matt. We know how to have fun at night.
This campus is decidedly larger than Muhlenberg's. I'm going to be in great physical condition after I'm done here!