Back in May, when a torrent of emotions flowed as we said goodbye to our seniors, I returned to my office after attending a graduation ceremony to find a small, unassuming envelop that contained a letter and check slid under my door. Upon opening and reading the letter, I realized that the contents were greater than a simple, hand-written letter and a check, but rather a tangible reminder of God’s presence and grace.
The letter was from one of our graduating seniors and sought to thank me and my wife, Sarah’s, role at helping to develop and nurture the community of faith at UKirk. The student went on to say that they felt that UKirk would continue to flourish in the years to come and they wanted to be part of that movement and offer their support.
Obviously, I was touched by these kinds words and was eager to share them with my wife, but before that I needed to hand off the folded check to Jaclyn to deposit. Being quite honest, I didn’t have a great deal of expectation when I unfolded the check to see the amount but the number made me stop and sit down.
$2,017.00. You’re reading that right. $2,017.00. A dollar amount equal to the year this student graduated.
That can’t be right, I thought. Why would a student, a student who was about to go into this fearful and uncertain world give such a large gift, a gift that could help them as they built their life? Was this real? I sat there on my sofa in my office for probably half an hour looking at that check in disbelief. Why would they do this?
I reread the letter, over and over again and my eyes continued to rest on the words, “I know that UKirk will continue to flourish over the years to come. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help!” This student saw value in the ministry of UKirk as one who received care in our ministry and wanted to be about securing that for others with a disproportionately large gift. It struck me that this letter and check represented the convergence of discipleship and faith that is our hope for all the people that we seek serve.
At UKirk, we seek to be baptism promise keepers, helping to make God’s love known and real to people (as their own congregations have) through word and deed, love and prayer, until they are the ones who make promises to care for others. The foundation of the Christian Church is the beautiful cycle of discipleship of receiving and giving so that others can know God’s love more fully. For us at UKirk, for a student to “get it” and seek to be about the care and faith formation of others is one of the highest goals we could ever hope to achieve with God’s help.
So, the board and I feel that this story of discipleship needs to be told and celebrated. We are so grateful for our opportunity to touch the lives of students and be baptism promise keepers for countless churches that we may never see. At UKirk, we continue to prayerfully discern how to most faithfully live out our role as baptism promise keepers on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the letter and gift from this student helped us to be reminded that we are achieving that high goal.
The crux of the letter and gift was partnership rooted in a shared belief that we, at UKirk, are on the right track, connecting people to Jesus Christ and deepening their faith. We wanted to extend the invitation to those who support us to help us match this student’s immense gift the week before we receive new students to our space and seek to join their faith journey.
In addition to your financial support needed to match the amount of $2,017, we are asking that you tell this story, the story of a student who was formed and then sought to help form others. This, friends, is discipleship at work and the story serves as a reminder to me that a multitude of young people that we serve will be carrying on the Church’s legacy of keeping baptism promises to countless people in the decades ahead.
My wife, Sarah, and I are personally contributing to this matching gift campaign and we invite you to do the same.
Rev. Andy P. Morgan
UKirk at UT, Knoxville