August 2018

Hey team!

The new school year is here and we are in full swing. The beginning of the semester took off swimmingly and I can't wait to tell you about it, but first, let me tell you about Black Hills Bible Camp. This was my second year co-directing with Chris Livingston and we had a wild ride. First, we had around 230 campers, which is a record high for us at this campground. We had to struggle to find enough beds for everyone and, at one point, we had to close registration. Black Hills Bible Camp is about half family camp and half teenager camp, which is an exciting mix from an intergenerational point of view, but one of the cool things about this particular year is that our big increase came from young families and older ladies. How cool is that? Our camp is so filled with the spirit of God that it is a welcoming place for young and old alike.

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My Family At BHBC 2018

On top of that, we had 12 of our young people commit their lives to Christ in baptism. It was a massive wave of baptisms! We had so many one day, we had to schedule them because they were throwing off the camp activities so much. Then when folks got back home at the end of the week, I heard about two more students who made the decision when they got back to their church families. I know our faith isn't a numbers game and so much of what we do in ministry isn't easily quantifiable, but by every measure I can think of, this week was a win.

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All The Students Who Committed Their Lives To Jesus In Baptism At BHBC 2018

Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”

- Acts 11:23

After Bible camp, I slept as much as I could for a couple of days and then we jumped right into the new school year. Our first event was helping with the Freshmen Move In Day, which gave us a lot of good contacts with incoming students and incredibly sore legs. I don't know how this is possible, but I'm pretty sure every freshmen on campus lives on the third or fourth floor and brought nothing except bricks with them to college. I've never carried so many mini fridges up so many flights of stairs in my life, but it was all worthwhile.

Two days later, we participated in the first Student Organization Fair of the year. We set up a tent and served homemade cold-brew coffee, Capri Suns, and bottled waters to anyone interested. We had 8 of our students come help. Normally at this event we get about 15 or 16 students, but this year we got signatures from 37 interested students.


Our First Student Organization Fair 2018

We were so excited! Then we had no idea how we were going to feed them all if they showed up to our study the next day, so that was a bit concerning. Still, I have a rule of thumb that says when we get signatures at events like this, we usually get about 10% of them to come to the Bible study and that held true this time as well.

We had 4 new visitors and 16 total people there, which was super exciting. We ate some good food and started our study on the Gospel of Matthew. We also had s'mores over a fire pit in the back yard which is always fun. However, I did make a rookie mistake. I tried to have the fire and the Bible study at the same time. I'm here to tell you, if you try to have a fire and a Bible study at the same time, the fire will win.


Students At Our First Bible Study Back

The next week we had a much more Bible-filled Bible study. We only had 11 people there, but we did have a new visitor and a returning visitor. As the semester settled into its groove, new visitors have been the name of the game. We are now 7 weeks into the semester and we have had first-time visitors at 6 of the 7 studies. We've also averaged 14 people at our studies, up from 12 last Fall.

We did a handful of other activities to welcome in the new school year. We threw a Frisbee on the campus green, hosted an afternoon of card games, and did a service project to help out the Artemis House, which is a local organization that helps victims of domestic abuse.

The lesson I keep learning over and over this semester is that if you build a safe place for people to discover Jesus, they will come. People want to discover Jesus. They want to hear messages of love and hope in this dark world and if you build that, they will come.

Thanks for reading!


July 2018

Hey team!

It feels like ages since the last time I wrote and so much has happened. I caught you all up to speed as far as June, but July and August have been action-packed, so I have a lot to write about. Let's start with July.

To be fair, the first part of July was mostly calm. I did a bunch of counseling and preparations for Bible camp. I put in some time on continuing education by listening to Bible lectureships on-line and reading books. And we had a lovely visit from one of our previous students, Miss Bailey Hoeft, who brought her sisters to hang out for the weekend.

Our Bible studies over the summer were informal events. Sometimes we studied the Bible, but just as often we worked on the facility or just hung out together. We helped Taylor with her fundraising letters one night, had a surprise birthday party for Cassie one night, and spent the whole time making plans for the new Fall semester one night. We averaged about 6 or 7 students, which is pretty good for the summer time. All in all, it was exactly what we needed it to be, when we needed it to be it.

Then about half way through the month, we started picking up speed for camp and the new semester. I participated in our semi-annual Preacher Swap and headed over to Sundance, WY, where the Wales family treated Sarah and the boys and I to a great lunch afterwards. I worked madly on camp for a couple of days and then jumped on a plane and flew to Auburn, Alabama for the annual “Campus For Christ Conference.”

The first time I went to the “Campus For Christ Conference” was last year when the University Church in Canyon, Texas hosted it. They are one of our longer-term supporters and generously offered to send me to their conference. It was such a good thing last year that my elders sent me to again this year.

The theme this year was “Launch: Preparing Students For Life After College.” The two best pieces of this conference are the classes and the networking. The classes cover all kinds of different aspects of campus ministry. If I wanted to learn about how to make disciples better, get insights into Generation Z, improve fundraising efforts, or help our students become more socially responsible, I could find classes on any of those topics. These are wonderful resources and if you are interested, most of them are free online at

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Campus For Christ Conference 2018

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One Of Our Presentations


My Conference Buddies

The other part of this conference that is so good is the networking opportunities. There are campus ministers from all over the place who have been through all kinds of situations in all kinds of environments. If I run into struggles and obstacles in my ministry, I have a chance to ask whole tables full of ministers what they would do. It is great!

The main lesson I took from the conference this year is just how important it is for us to be doing this ministry here in South Dakota. Sometimes it feels like we have a simple little program and it isn't a big deal, but this conference convicted me that what we are doing here is vitally important. Check out this map:

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Campus Ministry Map 2014

This is a map of the church of Christ related campus ministries in the USA. The red text is “Primarily Division 1 Colleges Without Campus Ministries” and the black text is “Colleges With Campus Ministries.” As you can see at the top, this map is a couple of years old, but it shows just how scattered campus ministries are in the Midwest and the Northeast. There are a handful to be sure, but not many. The biggest message I got from this year's conference is how terribly important it is to have campus ministries in the north. Folks, we need this. We need campus ministries in the north because there just aren't that many.

It reminds me of that verse in Matthew where Jesus looks out over the crowds of people searching for healing and direction and He says:

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

- Matthew 9:37-38

All that to say, I deeply appreciate everyone of you for your support in this ministry. It is a good thing we are doing together. And I hope one day that this ministry can serve as a launching pad for many others like in the Midwest.

Thanks for reading!


June 2018

Hey team!

Here is our newsletter for June 2018. June is a quiet month around here most years and this year is was quieter than usual, which was kind of nice after all the craziness of graduation. We had a couple of activities and events, but on the whole it was a time of renewal, prayer, and learning.

We have a decent number of students who are in town for the summer, so we have still been getting together on Monday nights. We study the Bible, plan for the Fall, clean up around the building, and just goof off together. I've also been doing a surprisingly large number of counseling sessions with students over a variety of things, so that's been good. Since I have been in town all summer, I have been filling in teaching and preaching for a lot of folks while they travel. I've also been doing a lot of reading and listening to seminars and lectureships on-line and I helped organize an area-wide singing at the Gillette Church of Christ. It was the first time they had hosted an area-wide singing in 20 years and it was a great time. Folks from the Black Hills area drove a hundred miles, one-way, to go singing with our brothers and sisters in Christ for an evening, which I think is pretty cool.

However, since it was pretty quiet on the home front in June, I thought I would spend most of this letter talking about campus ministry in general. It starts out negative, but hang in there for the hope at the end. Right now there is a lot of concern for the direction Christianity is heading in America today. Christianity is doing great in other parts of the world, but all the statistics about about Christians in America are pretty dour recently. Specifically, young people and Millennials are leaving the faith in record numbers and there is a lot of ink being spilled on why they are leaving and how to bring them back. Now, I recognize my own bias here, but I believe campus ministries are the key to turning this trend around and I'll tell you why.

Our preacher man, Thomas Pruett, shared a series of blog posts with me earlier this summer that outlined the issues in a great way. The blog is by Todd Dildine, a pastor at a church in Chicago. His four-part blog series is overly-dramatically called, “The Death Of The Church” and relies heavily on a highly-scholastic book called, “Bowling Alone” by Harvard Professor Robert Putnam. So with that bit of a convoluted introduction, here is the big idea.

Putman says Christianity isn't declining in America right now; every volunteer-based community in America is declining. Since around 1960, Americans are voting less, attending churches less, eating together as families less, hosting people in their homes less, and working on community projects less. “This collapse is an epidemic” writes Dildine. Every community-based organization in America is hurting right now. He then goes on to outline his theory on why this decline is happening and it boils down to three reasons. I'm over-simplifying for space, but the big three reasons are: “Sprawl,” Technology, and a “Me” culture.

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Bowling Alone

“Sprawl” is the idea that, as we get better at travel, we are spending more time in our cars than in our communities, which fragments our sense of neighborhood. Technology is changing the ways we interact with the world so fast, it is breathtaking. We recently passed the mark where the average American now spends more waking hours in the virtual world than waking hours in the real world, which gives you a glimpse as to how big the impact is on us. The “Me” Culture is a value-shift from ideas like “Duty” and “Community Engagement” to ideas like “You be you” and “Create your own meaning.”

Putman says these three big “anti-community forces” all started increasing rapidly in the 1960's and have been gaining strength ever since, which is astonishing. This theory makes a lot of sense to me and puts a lot of our cultural forces in perspective.

Interestingly, it also puts campus ministries in the forefront of the battle for community. Besides folks in nursing homes, college students are the oldest age group that consistently lives in close community with each other. They walk everywhere, their neighbors live feet away and they eat together daily. This age group is uniquely situated to bypass the affects of Sprawl. As far as Technology, college students are deeply immersed in it, perhaps more than any other age group. However, that also means they are hitting their saturation point and are beginning to crave authentic interactions outside of the virtual world. They are looking for real community. And as for the “Me” Culture, that definitely shows up in the lives of our college students as everything they do swirls around their major, their careers, and their next steps in life. However, college students are young enough that their habits aren't formed yet; if we can get them involved in helping others at this stage, they are ready to engage in a more “We” based cultural value system.

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”

- 1 Timothy 4:12

I realize this is a strange mail out since it is less of a report and more of a theory, but I think it highlights just how important campus ministries are right now. We are at the forefront of reshaping the way people live and breathe in community with one another. If young people connect with Jesus and a faith community now, it can change their lives forever. So in the end, this is actually a thank you letter. Thank you so much for your support of our ministry! We are doing good things around here and we couldn't do it without your support. My prayer for you today is that, like Paul wrote in Ephesians 3, you may know the “breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”

Thanks for reading!

May 2018

Hey team!

Summer is in full swing now and I hope everyone enjoyed a great 4th of July. We had a lovely day of it. We had family over and watched the parade. I smoked my first successful brisket and I'm very proud about it (the key word here is “successful”). As we head towards the end of summer, here is a look back at May here in our campus ministry.

The biggest thing in May around here was graduation. We graduated Miss Brittany Begeman, Miss Cassie Carter, and Miss Taylor Escott, (pictures below). It was a day of big festivities, parties, balloons, hats, and cake. A whole pile of us went to the graduation ceremony and cheered. After that, Cassie and Brittany had a joint graduation party at our local Perkins and Taylor had a party at the rec center. One of our elders, Alan, Hardison, carried my two-year-old Patrick until he fell asleep, which was really sweet. Here are some pictures for you:

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Cassie, Brittany, and Taylor


Alan Carrying Patrick

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Graduation 2018

Brittany is moving to Minnesota to become a preschool teacher this Fall. Cassie is heading off to Indiana to pursue further education in Chemistry, so she can work in a lab somewhere and cure cancer for everyone. And Taylor is moving to Australia to go to a discipleship program and learn about coffee production. We are tremendously proud of our graduates and excited to see where their adventures take then next.

After graduation, we helped Brittany pack up her furniture and move and she helped us out with an interview about her faith journey during school. It started out as a simple video for a sermon I gave about our campus ministry, but she gave such a moving testimony that I have added it to our website, YouTube, Facebook, and now this newsletter. It is only a couple of minutes long, but Brittany's testimony sums up exactly why we do campus ministry and it is really encouraging. If you have some time, you should check it out at our home page of this website. Here she is drumming up the courage to share her story:

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Brittany Sharing Her Story

In that same sermon about the campus ministry, Rachel also shared some of her story about what our campus ministry means to her. We recorded the whole thing, but unfortunately, the audio is too garbled to hear clearly, so I haven't uploaded that one to the website yet. Fortunately, Rachel said she could redo it for us, so whenever we get that one shot, I will let you know. There is power in the simple sharing of our faith stories.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

- 1 John 4:15-16

After graduation, things calmed down around here immensely and we started getting into our summer schedule. Most of the students left, but we have half a dozen or so in town, so we are still meeting on Monday nights. It is a more informal event now though. We eat together and then either study the Bible, work on cleaning and repairing the Christian Student Center, or sometimes just play for the evening. One night we all went to surprise one of the high school students at our church, Ian Hastings, at his Senior High School Choir Concert. It was a lot of fun and Ian sang great. All that to say, our Monday night gathering are whatever we need them to be right now, which is nice.

Besides our Bible studies, there wasn't that much going on in May. Not only was school out and everyone leaving or settling into summer jobs, but I also got strep throat for two weeks. And let me tell you, strep throat is less fun than it sounds. It was gross. However, whenever I wasn't sick, we did have a great area preacher meeting, Rachel and Cassie patched a big hole in Rachel's car's muffler, and I spent a lot of time doing continuing education, so good things are still going on.

Anyway, that's all for May. Thanks for reading and you have a great day!


April 2018

Hey everybody!

As we head into June, let's take a minute to look back at the last couple of months of the semester. April was a good month for us around here. It was our last full month of school and a time of fond farewells as our graduating seniors wrapped up the final classes and planned their graduation parties.

Before all that though, we started the month with a big Easter celebration. Sarah and I and 5 of our students joined the Sturgis Church of Christ for morning assembly and then we all headed up the hill where my in-laws hosted a lovely Easter lunch. It was a great time full of fun and fellowship!

We officially started our Wednesday Night Tutoring program, which is really fun and low-key right now. I took my last trip up to Faith this school year and taught my final class until the Fall (my entourage of Hannah, Brooklyn, and David all joined me again). We hosted our monthly “Area-Wide Church Leader Eating Meeting,” which continues to grow as the area ministers get better at supporting and connecting with each other. Here is a cool picture Thomas took of our April meeting. It is one of those goofy panoramic ones, so you can see our whole room in one shot, but you have to squint a little because it has trouble fitting on a page:


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Church Leader Eating Meeting 4.10.18


We still had larger-than-usual crowds of students at every church function, which has been a great encouragement to everyone. I'm busy scheming clever ways to get more space for our students since I think we are maxing out our current facilities. We also had a solid handful of individual Bible studies and counseling sessions going on. I also helped some students write their resumes and fix their broken cars. It struck me in April how much I play the part of “the dad” to our students. I'm really like “The Campus Dad” around here, which is nice.

We participated in a “Wellness Fair” to promote folks slowing down and being mindful. My vision for the fair was to have a series of laptops playing funny slow motion videos in loops, so when folks ask what we were doing, we could talk about the importance of slowing down. Unfortunately, I couldn't get enough laptops together and the whole thing turned into a mess. It ended up with one of our students, Kris Baker, and I just hanging out on a pair of yoga mats. The idea was to still promote slowing down and being mindful, but as it turns out, no one wants to talk to two random guys hanging out on yoga mats in the student union building. So we just chatted with each other the whole time. It was a bit of a wreck, but now I have a much clearer picture of what I want to accomplish next year.

We enjoyed an End Of The Year Party with a cookout that we managed to still pull off, even though it was raining. Big kudos to David for getting that fire going! We hung out and played games, talked through the up coming finals, and enjoyed a good time. We had 14 people there.

At the end of the month, we celebrated the graduation of several of our students. This year we graduated Brittany Begeman, Cassie Carter, and Chris Brown. Brittany has been a big part of our group for several years now. She was baptized back in November and has made huge changes in her life to be more like Jesus this year. She is going to be a preschool teacher in Minnesota. Cassie Carter has also been an active member of our group for years and has served as our club president for the last year. She is heading off to Indiana to pursue further education in Chemistry, so she can work in a lab somewhere and cure cancer for us all. Chris Brown grew up going to the Northern Hills Church of Christ, so he wins the award for the longest time being involved around here. He graduated with a degree in Agricultural Technologies and plans to stick around here and help his dad with the farm. All three of them are great young people and we are both sad to see them go and excited to see what they do next.

This year we also honored Rachel Munce who graduated last year, but in the hustle of last year's mission trip, we forgot to buy her a Bible, so we made it up to her this time. Here is a picture of the elders and I lining up to pray over our students:



Our Graduates, Elders, and I


“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. . .”

- Philippians 1:9-10


Anyway, that's all for April. Thanks for reading and you have a great day!


March 2018

Hey everybody!

I hope you are doing well and having a warm and sunny day! Around here, winter has held on long and grimly, but the last few weeks have finally start to thaw. I even broke out a pair of shorts the other day. I regretted that decision immediately, but it reminded me that summer will come again some day and I can't wait. As far as campus ministry though, here is our report for March.

March was a regular kind of a month for us. We had the big youth rally at the end of February and everyone took off for Spring Break in the middle of March, so it was fairly quiet around here. We had all our normal studies and meetings, of course, and I took the opportunity to make it to a couple of the area churches, but by and large it wasn't a big month.

Probably the thing that had the biggest impact on the area was a funeral. Ed Hawks, who was a member of the Faith Church of Christ, passed away unexpectedly. It was a big blow to the community, as Ed and Gloria were both very involved and active in the congregation. This marks the third loss in their congregation this year, so they need to be in our prayers as much as possible these days. Ed was a great guy and we are going to miss him.

While the students were gone for Spring Break, I caught up on some reading and finished a book I would like to recommend to everyone. It is called, “Loves God, Likes Girls” by Sally Gary. It is not a theology book as much as a diary. It is simply the story of the author growing up in an abusive home and trying to find her identity as someone who loves God, but is attracted to her same gender. Although homosexuality is the main theme, it is equally about abuse, isolation, and the importance of dealing with the difficult parts of our lives. It is a beautiful, heart-breaking, book that offers a lot of healthy perspectives on how homosexuality and faith interact. It is also great for pushing people to confront the parts of our lives that we would rather ignore or diminish. You should pick it up sometime and tell me what you think. I know it has been a formative book for me and I think it will bless your life as well.


You should read this book.

You should read this book.


Back to our activities in March though, I started laying the ground work for a new tutoring program. I've been trying to get our crew involved with serving people in some way for awhile now and we have had a few events, but nothing on-going or predictable. As I mulled it over, my sweet wife Sarah suggested starting a tutoring program for high school students based in our church building on Wednesday nights. It would work great because we always do a “Mid Week Manna” meal on Wednesday nights during the school year, so students could get help with homework, get dinner, and stay for evening assembly if they were interested. I thought it was a great idea, but I couldn't see the schools getting on board with sending their students to our building and I was concerned about our students being confident enough to help with high school level math tutoring (it can be brutal!).

Still, it was a great idea, so I went to talk with our local middle school principle to see what they might need. I was looking for something like a “Thursday afternoon tutoring at the school” situation, but he said, “Wednesdays would work best to avoid the Tuesday and Thursday evening sports activities. Also, our classrooms are all pretty full already. How do you feel about a Wednesday afternoon event at your building?” I said that works for me and we started making plans.

We decided to start in the Fall, since there isn't much of the school year left this year, and hire a local bus company to drive the students out to our building at $4 a person. In the meantime, I want to get folks used to the tutoring routine, so we started our own little in-house tutoring program with students who go to our church. So now most every Wednesday night we have a little group that meets up and works on math problems before our evening meal. It is definitely small and we don't meet every week, but you know, God tends to honor folks who faithfully keep working at the small things in life. It reminds me of Jesus' parable about the Shrewd Manager where he says folks who can be trusted with a little money can be trusted with much. If we keep working at the small things, God notices, and hopefully we can help some folks out with this tutoring thing.

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

- Luke 16:10

I took advantage of the quieter month to participate in our local Preacher Swap. Three times a year, the preachers from a half dozen area congregations swap pulpits for a Sunday. It is a fantastic way for preachers and congregations to get a chance to get to know each other. I drove to the Gillette Church of Christ and taught class and the sermon. I also had a lovely surprise as two of our students, Rachel and Cassie, drove over to cheer me on while I preached. They literally drove 95 miles each way through a snowstorm to show up and support, which I thought was just the sweetest thing. We have great students around here.

Speaking of them, we did a handful of individual Bible studies in March, a good deal of counseling, they helped make the Mid Week Manna one week, and several of them have taken to riding over to Faith on my monthly trips over there. So even on months when we don't have any big things going on, they are still really involved, which is pretty cool.

Anyway, that's all for March. Thanks for reading and you have a great day!



February 2018

Hey everybody!


Looking back on it, February was dominated by two things: Our youth rally and snow. The youth rally took loads of time and energy of course, but the snow was everywhere! Throughout the month, we had to cancel a Sunday morning assembly, a Wednesday night assembly, and a Monday night Bible study due to ice and snow. I worked our snow shovel so much, I had to buy a new one. The “Hero Of The Month” award goes to Dave Mielke from Northern Hills Church of Christ, who came by and fixed up our snow blower. Without his handy machine know-how, I would probably still be moving snow from February. It was a mess.

However, when we did have events and assemblies they were good ones. The biggest problem with our campus ministry these days is figuring out how to fit everyone in our campus house. We have a lovely facility, but we are maxing it out every week now. We are averaging around 15 people which is a pretty big crowd for a regular-sized living room. We repainted over the summer to make it feel more open and we are talking about swapping some couches out for chairs, but if we are going to grow more from here we are going to need to either remodel, relocate, or get creative. It is wonderful problem!

We could simply use a facility on campus. With the right paperwork, the school allows student organizations to use classrooms and other facilities. However, we would lose our close-knit “homey” feeling, we couldn't serve food, and the whole atmosphere would be different. Our studies would feel less like “Let's gather around the table” and more like “Where is the syllabus?” On the other hand, remodeling is expensive and time-consuming, so that's not a great option either. We could try splitting our group in two and offering two studies a week, but all the students would want to go to the same one anyway to be around their friends. So for now we are stuck in the happy conundrum of too many people and not enough room. Still, right now there is a great energy in air and most every week feels like a blow-out success (probably due to the lack of chairs), so our ministry is alive and well (if a little cramped) these days.

Here is a picture of our group hosting a Super Bowl Party with some of our church family:



Super Bowl Party 2018


The other big thing that happened in February was our 4th annual youth rally. It was a great time! We had about 25 teenagers and 15 adults, which may not sound like much for a youth rally, but when you consider that's from a half-dozen churches from a hundred miles West and East from here, that's not too shabby. Our congregation of 70 folks or so had 110 at our Sunday morning assembly that weekend. Our teachers also came from a handful of area congregations around us, making it truly an area-wide event. We played some games, made some friends, and heard some high-quality apologetics. The theme was “The Reason For God” based on the book by Timothy Keller and the big idea was to help students think through the reasons for our faith. It was a good weekend all the way around. One of our elders, Alan Hardison, said, “I think this was our best youth rally yet.”



Ernie Bishop Teaching At Our Youth Rally


For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

- 2 Corinthians 10:3-6



Keanu And I At Our Youth Rally


In between the snow and the youth rally, we kept trucking with all our regular kinds of things. We had a couple of individual Bible studies. We had 7 students at one of our Sunday morning assemblies, which was fantastic. We had a student visit our church for the first time. I had to stay home a couple of days to take care of my sweet boys who got some nasty colds. We hosted the area-preacher meeting and our Bi-Annual Campus Ministry Board meeting. The ballast blew out in the lights in our kitchen, so we spent a couple days trying to cook in the dark (which I have discovered is not a great plan). Eventually Albert Hardy came by and fixed it up for us. He also deserves a “Hero Of The Month” award. I don't know what we would do without the great support we get from our church family in the area.


Anyway, that's all for February. Thanks for reading and you have a great day!


January 2018


Hey everybody!

We started this year off with a bang. Usually January is kind of quiet as the students get back into the swing of school after Christmas Break, but this year we hit the ground running and never looked back. We did ALL the things in January. It was nuts, but it was a good month for us.

It started with all the students drifting back from break and two new ones joining us. One is David Ritchie, who I mentioned in the last mail out. He moved up here from Texas to go to a nursing school in Rapid. The other is Brooklyn Schauer, a young lady from the Faith congregation. She transferred in at semester and is roommates with one of our other students, Hannah Valentine. Since joining our group back in January, David and Brooklyn have both been getting involved and showing up just about any time the door is open. It is great to have them on the team!

Around the same time, Alan Hardison, one of our elders at the Northern Hills Church of Christ, started joining us for our Monday night Bible studies as well. His lovely wife Deb started working nights most Mondays, so instead of sitting at home, Alan is staying up late and participating in our studies. I love having him there to help me with the difficult theological conundrums we tackle at out studies and the students have definitely accepted him into the tribe.

The same weekend that all the students came back for school, we had a lovely visit from Jefferson and Cris Lessa, who are friends of ours from our mission trips to Natal, Brazil. They attend the church we work with down there and are heavily involved with the LST program there. They flew up just to visit us because they are big sweeties. Bailey Hoeft drove down from Moorhead, MN to see them and we all had a fantastic weekend together reminiscing and looking forward to future mission trips. That same weekend, I went and spoke at the Gillette Church of Christ in Wyoming and talked about what's been going on in our campus ministry. It was a big weekend for ministry. Here is a picture of us and our Brazilian friends:


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Us And Our Brazilian Friends


The next day we had our first Bible study of the semester. We started our study of Romans and had 17 people there. The study gelled. It came together nicely. This study of Romans is going to be a good thing for us this semester. The heart of Romans is about “unity in Christ” and it seems like unity is a rare and beautiful thing these days.


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

- Romans 1:16-17


The next week we had our area preacher meeting, I started a weekly Bible study with one of our students, and we got ready for our Student Organization Booth Fair. The Student Organization Fair in the Spring is usually not a big recruiting event for us and this year was about the same. We had 6 of our students help run our booth and we got signatures from two interested students, but they never ended up visiting, so that was a bit of a wash. I'm still proud of our students for helping out anyway.

During the middle of the month, Northern Hills Church of Christ put on a Teacher's Workshop to help teach teacher how to teach. Sarah and I both showed up and enjoyed listening to our presenter Carl Feril as he shared his teaching wisdom with us. It was time well-spent all the way around.


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Northern Hills Teacher Workshop


At the end of the month, Sarah and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Arizona. Why Arizona, you ask? Because it is warm and sunny and South Dakota in January is neither of those things. My mom watched our kids and we took some time off of ministry to celebrate the last decade. Our actual anniversary is in May, but this fell into our laps, so we took it and had a wonderful time.

While we were gone, the students organized a movie night and had some fun. I love that they love spending time together so much. This is a special group of college students.

The last thing we did in January was my monthly trip to Faith. Since Hannah and Brooklyn are both from Faith, they came with me this trip and we invited David as well. The four of us piled into my old Prius and drove out to Faith. I taught the lesson and we all had a good time visiting with our church family in Faith.


Thanks for reading and you have a great day!



December 2017


Hey everybody!


As we get started on 2018, here is a quick look back on the last couple of campus ministry events of 2017. We had a great December! It is really only half a month with the students due to finals and Christmas Break and all that, but we still packed some good things in there. We had some Bible studies, counseling time, a Christmas Party, and a few other odds and ends.

The thing that keeps standing out about December for me is how much our students want to study the Bible. Millennials tend to get a bad rap in the media for being lazy, entitled, and uninterested in God, but I'm telling you, that stereotype is just a stereotype. Our students continue to surprise me with their thirst for the Good News. Let me give you a couple of examples.

First, as the semester wound down, I started polling our group to see what they would like to study for the Spring semester. Since we just wrapped up a study on the Gospel of Mark, I thought we could do some nice light topical stuff. I said, “I have a great class on relationships and a great class on media. What do you want to study?” They thought about it awhile and came back with, “Can we study Romans, arguably the most theologically-dense book in the Bible?”

On another occasion, I was teaching a class about the resurrection of Jesus and I showed a clip from Lee Strobel's “The Case For Christ.” I told the students I didn't have time in class to watch the whole 45 minute lesson, but I could play a 10 minute clip, so they decided to stay after our Bible study and watch the rest of it.

Then a couple weeks ago the weather was awful. It was -6 degrees with a windchill that could get to -35. I asked the students if they wanted it study Romans and eat tacos or stay home and be warm. The overwhelming response was, “Yeah, let's do this!” They are crazy.

So don't let people tell you Millennials don't like Jesus; the interest is out there if we just give them the opportunity to experience the Gospel.


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Our Lovely “End Of The Semester/Finals/Christmas Party”:


In other news, we picked up a new student. His name is David Ritchie and he just moved up from Texas to pursue a nursing degree in Rapid City. The poor guy moved up on the weekend that we had the coldest temperatures in 20 years. Being a good Texas boy, he had only seen snow once before in his life and suddenly he was in -20 degrees with a nasty windchill. It was a bit of a culture shock, but he is doing better now. David hasn't been here a month yet, but he is swiftly becoming a big part of our ministry here and we are happy to have him on the team.

We were also blessed over the Christmas Break with a gigantic fancy espresso machine. My sweet parents decided our espresso machines just weren't cutting it and donated a beautiful machine to the Christian Student Center. The students and I make lattes all the time and before this we were making due with three old beat up espresso machines that gave varying results. So when the students came back from Christmas Break and saw this machine they were ecstatic. It really is a blessing to our ministry.



Thomas And I Trying The New Coffee Machine For The First Time:


Once all the students left town, I put a lot of time and energy into planning our youth rally in February. We are going to be talking about Timothy Keller's book, “The Reason For God: Belief In An Age Of Skepticism.” This is most balance, intelligent, and well-written case for the Christian faith that I have read in a long time and I'm looking forward to digging into it with our teens. Here is a picture of our flier:


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Our Upcoming Youth Rally:


“And 'do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,' but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”

1 Peter 3:14-16


Thanks for reading and you have a great day!


November 2017


Hey everybody!


Well, 2017 has come and gone and it was a great year for our campus ministry. However, I haven't updated you on the last couple months of the year, so let's go back and visit how we wrapped up 2017. It seems like it was ages ago, but a lot of good things happened that are worth remembering.

So, last November was a fairly typical month for us in a lot of ways, but it did have some surprises. We had about a dozen students coming to our Monday Night Bible studies on a regular basis, about 4 students at our Wednesday night assemblies, and about 5 students at our Sunday morning assemblies. It thrills me to say that's the new normal around here.

I love having a row of college students consistently showing up on Sundays and Wednesday and getting plugged into our congregation. The danger of age-based ministries is that they tend to silo off that group and isolate them from the greater body of Christ, which isn't good for anyone. The younger people need the wisdom of the older people and the older people need the energy of the younger people. So I love seeing our younger people connecting with the members of the congregation and everyone sharing their collectives wisdom and energy together.

November was mostly dominated with talk about Thanksgiving Break and with things breaking. As the cold weather blew in, everything started breaking down. I helped patch a flat tire, helped get the keys out of a locked car, and gave two jump-starts. One day it got so windy the big sign in front of our campus house blew off, so I had to get that, bang out the dents, and screw it back in place (we are a classy bunch here in South Dakota). One of our elders, Jim Sigle, got our old broken water heater replaced at the campus house, so there was much rejoicing in the land. I even took one of our student to the Urgent Care center for severe headaches. It was just a big month for patching people and things back together again, I guess.

Thomas Pruett and I also decided on the topic for our youth rally in February. We are going to be talking about Timothy Keller's book, “The Reason For God: Belief In An Age Of Skepticism.” It is going to be fantastic! As soon as I finished reading it, I knew we had to do something with this material. If you have any interest in apologetics, you should definitely pick up a copy. This is best, most intelligent, and well-written case for the Christian faith that I have read in a long time. So this February we are attempting to distill it down to 6 lessons over a weekend at an accessible level for teenagers, which could be a bit of a challenge, but well worth the time.

We did the usual kinds of monthly events too. I took my traditional trip up to Faith to teach their youth night. They had a whole pile of teenagers and we talked about conflict resolution skills, so that was a good trip. There are some sweet people out in that part of the world.

Our college students hosted a movie night. I hosted our area-wide church leader “eatin meetin'” where we had the preachers from four different congregations present. Those are always a blessing to us.

The ministry activities, however, were cut a week short for Thanksgiving Break. The students were mostly heading out of town, so Sarah and I did the same thing. We went to visit my sister Naomi and her husband Ben in Utah. Since we were going to be gone the Monday before Thanksgiving, but the students weren't going to leave until Tuesday, I asked Thomas to teach our study for me.

Apparently, he did a stellar job of it. After the big group Bible study, Thomas got into an study on baptism with one of our girls, Brittany Begeman, and she decided to put on Christ in baptism that night. Hooray! Isn't that fantastic?

Brittany has been part of our group for a year and a half now. She always has a big smile and great questions about whatever text we are studying. She has been through some pretty hard times in her life, but her faith has been growing immensely in the last couple of months. She had been asking about baptism and thinking about it a lot and the Holy Spirit was moving in her heart. This is a big step for her and I am so proud of her and her decision to put on Christ in baptism.

Here are a couple of pictures for you:


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Thomas Baptizing Brittany


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Our New Sister In Christ


“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

-Acts 2:38-39


Thanks for reading and you have a great day!


October 2017


Hey everybody!


I hope you are having a great day today. It is a good day to be alive! Here the winter cold is starting to set in, but spirits are high. October was another great month for our campus ministry, with a couple of new events and some really exciting news.

For instance, I started up my monthly trips to teach the youth program in Faith again. They run an after-school youth program on Wednesday nights that draws a crowd of 20-30 students every week. In a town of 500 people, that's huge, so I try to go over there and help out wherever I can. This last time, I ran a “Life Sized Hungry Hungry Hippo Game” and taught a class. They were both received well and made an excellent dry run for our big event two days later.

So that Friday was the Spearfish Recreational Center's “Spooktacular” event. This is a fun event where families get to dress up and let their kids play carnival games in the safety of the Rec Center. The games are mostly ran by college clubs and organizations, which are reimbursed for the number of tickets they collect from the kids. So the clubs get a fundraiser, the kids have a good time, and the parents don't have to worry about their children wandering the streets in the dark. It is a pretty good deal all the way around.

We showed up and ran the “Life Sized Hungry Hungry Hippo Game” again. This was our very first time to participate in this event, but I thought is was a tremendous success. Here are some pictures for you.



Ryan Working The Hungry Hungry Hippo Game



Our Team


I was once again proud of our students showing and working hard at the game all night. We had one of the most popular booths in whole place because of our students. They pushed kids on creepers out and pulled them back in by a rope repeatedly for a steady stream of kids for the entire three hour event. Our team was completely wiped out by the end of it, but we got our name out there in a very positive way and made a buck or two in the process (we won't know how much for another week). Here is our exhausted crew smiling for the camera:

Speaking of our students, we still have a solid group of students coming to church with us on Sundays and Wednesdays now, which is thrilling for me. One of the greatest struggles of our campus ministry has been integrating it with our church family and that wall has been breached in a big way recently. We have a crew of our students coming to our congregation regularly and we have had several of our church folks come visit our Monday night Bible studies, so I'm glad to see us getting some more traction here.

The best news of the month actually grew out of this sort of thing. The other day I got a call from Calvin Chapman that one of their members in Faith, Jack Valentine, was baptized. Jack is Calvin's son-in-law and he has a daughter who is part of our ministry here, Hannah Valentine. Calvin said I should see if she was interested in being baptized too. So one Wednesday night at church, I asked her if she was interested in being baptized. However, our conversation was interrupted, so I had her chat with one of our elders, Alan Hardison. I don't know what they talked about, but that next Wednesday Hannah decided to be baptized. Hooray! I'm thrilled for her! Calvin and Jack both had the honor of baptizing her in the freezing cold stream across the street from our football field. We immediately smothered her in blankets, but look at that happy smile:



Hannah Recovering From Being Baptized


Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

- Romans 6:4


I'll follow the best news of the month with the worst news though; Thomas was playing racquetball with his mom and accidentally broke his ankle. It was pretty bad for awhile there. He had to get surgery and crutches and mandatory rest and all that. At the same time, the Pruetts were buying their very first home and needed help moving, so it was a rough time for everyone. Fortunately, our church family rallied around them and helped with the move, and the meals, and getting the kids where they needed to go. So now they are all settled in and happily recovering, but I'm sure they could still use your prayers, as could we all.

Thanks for reading and you have a great day!


September 2017

Hey everybody!


I hope this Fall finds you happy and healthy. Around here we have had our fair share of colds already, but everyone is happy and upbeat about the school year. This month we have had loads of new and exciting events going on, so everyone is feeling pretty peppy about the semester.

Our September was all about making the important transition from the “Welcome to school” events to the “Finding our rhythm” events. We averaged two big group events every week. We had our standing Monday night Bible Studies, which gained a lot of steam, and then we participated in nearly every event the school would allow. We ran a badminton game for the “Swarm Days Luau,” we passed out snow cones in the Student Union at the school sponsored “Tiki Hut,” and we hosted a Cold Brew Coffee Bar at a Student Organization Booth Fair.

I was so proud of our students. They showed up to help in droves. We had more than half a dozen of our students come help at all three events. To put that in perspective, usually we only have one or two students at these kinds of events. Our team this year is super involved and it is really helping pull our group together.



Our Swarm Days Luau



Our Badminton Crew


The badminton game and the snow cones were both new events for us. The school always hosts a bunch of activities in the first couple of weeks of school to get people involved and this year we were able to help out with a couple of those. I don't think we picked up any new students interested in our organization off of these events, but we got our name out there in front of the student body in a couple of positive ways, so that's always a good thing.

The Student Organization Booth Fair is another matter. That's usually our biggest recruiting event of the year every year. The last couple of years I have been experimenting with using coffee as our “hook” to get people interested in our booth. This time I think we really hit our stride. We have had some interest in games and things, but the Cold Brew Coffee Bar was a big hit. People loved it. We had a steady flow of folks coming through our booth the whole time. We passed out 4 entire gallons of cold brew coffee. People said we were geniuses multiple times.  At the end of the day, we only had nine signatures from interested students, but we all agreed it was probably our most popular booth.


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Our Booth


Besides the students and events, we also had some basic upkeep kinds of things. Calvin Chapman and Cody Skogen from Faith came over and removed the crumbling chimney from our facilities here. We hosted our monthly area church leader eating meeting. We had our annual campus ministry board meeting. I don't know if I say it enough, but I deeply appreciate all the hard work that the area church folks pour into our ministry here.

The most exciting news from September, however, is definitely our new students. We picked up four new students in the last couple of months and they are all fantastic human beings. We have one guy named, Noah, and three girls, Hannah, Hailey, and Izzie. Noah is from Whitewood, SD, Hannah, is from Faith, SD, Hailey, is from Gillette, WY, and Izzie is from Rapid City, SD. They are participating in just about every Monday night Bible study and they continue to be a big encouragement to our group.

In fact, this Fall our average attendance at Monday night Bible study, Wednesday night assembly, and Sunday mornings assembly are all up. We have more students making it to church on Sunday than ever before and it is glorious! I love having students in our campus ministry and I love love new students and I love love love it when our students connect with our church body.

Our club Faculty Adviser is a lady named Dr. Emelia Flint. She is a Psychology professor and loves Jesus. I asked her the other day what was the most pressing spiritual need she sees in the lives of our student at BHSU. She thought about it a moment and said, “Fully half of our incoming Freshmen who report their medical history to the school are on anti-depression medication. And that's only the ones who report it. Our students don't know who they are, where they belong, or what they are doing here. The identity issues are huge. The secular world hasn't given them a robust sense of identity and they feel lost.” I asked her what we could do to help and she said they need a sense of identity. We are helping students discover who they are as sons and daughters of the most high God and it is good work.


'And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty.”

- 2 Corinthians 6:18


You have a great day and thanks for reading!


August 2017

Hey everybody!

Man, did we ever jump into the school year hot this year! August is always a hopping month around here between Black Hills Bible Camp and the beginning of the new school year, but this year we were a rockin' and a rollin' more than usual. We had a great start to the new school year!

First though, let's talk about Bible camp. This year I co-directed camp with Chris Livingston, the Youth Minister from the Sunset Church of Christ in Springfield, Missouri. Chris did a wonderful job and I'm thrilled to have him on the team.


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BHBC Camp Board 2017


This year is BHBC's 50th anniversary and we went big with it. We rented a big tent and some of the big bouncy house inflatable games, we got a cake, and we took a bunch of pictures. One of the coolest parts of camp is that we brought back some of the folks who have poured their heart and souls into camp over the years to be our speakers. So we had Ken Tackett, Bruce Goodwin, Carl Feril, James Telgren, Warren Baldwin, and Chris Livingston deliver our evening keynote lessons and they did phenomenal jobs. It was a great week all the way around and I'm looking forward to BHBC 2018 with our new theme “Transformed” from Romans 12:1-2.



“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

- Romans 12:2


After camp, I took a day or two to recover and then I was back in the saddle for the new school year. I was so excited! This year I went into the new year with a lot more vim and vigor. The students and I worked all summer to get the campus house looking sharp with fresh paint and some yard work. I bought a bunch of hats with our logo on them for all our promotional events, sat through a 3:30 hour student organizational leadership meeting the school put on, and prayed.

And just like that the school year was on us. Ryan and Thomas and I helped with the Freshmen Move In Day where we hauled boxes and mini fridges up four flights of stairs repeatedly. It was exhausting, but it got our name out to a bunch of Freshmen.

Then two days later, we participated in the “Community Organization Fair” where we set up a booth and tried to drum up interest in our club. This year we decided to have a little cold-brew coffee buffet bar to draw people in and it worked like a charm. We got signatures from 15 interested students. Wahoo! Here is a picture of one of our students, Vanessa, helping with our booth:



Community Organization Booth Fair


The next day was our first Bible study of the new semester, so I emailed everyone on the list and made a big to-do about it. We usually don't get many new students from this first booth fair, but we had three new visitors that night. It was exciting! There were two young ladies from

the fair and one of our students brought her new roommate. On top of that, loads of our student from last year came back, so there was a good hum of energy in the air. And we started studying the Gospel of Mark, so that's always a good time.

I try to take every new student out for coffee at the coffee shop next to the cafeteria to get to know them and offer them a chance to ask questions about our group. I did that a handful of times over those first couple of weeks and made some good connections. Then we just started cranking out events.

We had a “Paint The Campus House Some More” project that first week, where we had a half dozen of our girls working together on our facility. That Sunday morning one of our new girls came to church with us (it was her first time stepping into a church building in two years, so it was a big deal for her). That next Monday we had two of the same three guests from the week before come back and we had two new visitors as well.

Three days after that, we had a service project at the “Artemis House.” I have wanted to get over there and help them out for years and we finally pulled it off. They offer housing and support for victims of domestic abuse, so they are a wonderful organization. We took a team (almost entirely made up of our new visitors) over there and cleaned, organized, and repaired things for a couple of hours. It was time well spent.

After that we got into September, so I'll write about those events in the next mail out, but they just keep coming. It feels like the past couple of years we have fumbled our way through the beginning of the school year trying to find what works and doesn't work. This year it feels like those lessons are finally “gelling” and we are hitting a good rhythm with it. I can't wait to see and hear what God has in store for the young people in our campus ministry this year. We are off to a great start, but we would still deeply appreciate your prayers as we recognize that God is the one who truly changes hearts and minds. You have a great day and thanks for reading!




July 2017

Hey everybody!

Here is another update on the Yellow Jackets For Christ campus ministry. We have all kinds of great things going on right now with the beginning of the new school year, but before I get to those, let me fill you in on all the great things that happened in July.

On a personal note, July was mainly eaten up by Sarah and I selling our house and buying a new one in Belle Fourche, 10 miles down the road. We wanted to downsize to a smaller place and, at the same time, the housing market in Spearfish went up so much that we thought we could make enough money on the sale to take a big bite out of our student loan debt. So we gussied up our place, sold it, and our students and church family kindly helped us move everything into a couple of storage units. We lived with Sarah's folks outside of Sturgis for a couple of weeks, closed on our new house in Belle Fourche, and then our lovely students and church family helped us move all our junk a second time.

The new place is wonderful and we did indeed take a good bite out of our student debt, so it was a worthwhile move, but we could not have done it without our faith community around here. I've been a part of a couple moves recently and it just keeps hitting me over and over how blessed we all are to be part of our church families. Our church families support each other through thick and thin. We sacrifice our time and energy for each other, we get our hands dirty, and we work hard to support God's family and it makes such a wild difference in our lives. We are better off for it.


“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

- Galatians 6:10


Back to ministry though, this year I co-directed Black Hills Bible Camp with Chris Livingston from the Sunset Church of Christ in Springfield, Missouri. It was our 50th anniversary camp, so it was big deal. We wanted to have a “Family Reunion” feel to it, so we made the theme “Come Home.” We rented a big shelter and had cake and giant inflatable bouncy castles and an obstacle course. We set up new background check procedures for our staff and brought back a lot of the folks who have meant so much to Black Hills Bible Camp over the years. It was a great week and I will tell you more about it in our August mail out, but for now here is a picture of our logo this year:

As far as our college students go, most of our efforts in July went towards repainting our campus house and fixing it up for the new school year. Every week the students and I would get together to eat and paint. We painted over our scuffed walls with lots of whites and blues and grays to open up the space and help more students to feel comfortable in our facility. Beside a couple of small spots here and there, we are done now and it looks terrific. The place is looking way better than it did back in April. We've also cut down brush, cleared out weeds, and brought in a new dishwasher and stove to replace our old half working ones. I've stoked about it! Our facility looks a hundred times better and is now ready for our new students coming in this Fall.


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Campus For Christ Conference 2017


The other big thing that happened in July was my trip to the “Campus For Christ Conference.” I've been looking for a good campus minister conference to attend the last couple of years and haven't had a lot of luck, but this year the University Church of Christ in Canyon, Texas hosted the annual “Campus For Christ Conference” and offered to pay my way to it. I took them up on the offer and it was such a wonderful blessing to me. It was exactly what I was looking for this whole time.

It was like going to a family reunion full of people you don't know. I didn't recognize all the big names, but these were clearly my people and they were talking about things near and dear to my heart. They would talk about how to reach intellectual students, how to reach unmotivated students, how to balance family and work when your hours tied so closely with the college life, and how to work effectively with school administrations. I ate it up. The University Church of Christ's Campus Minister, Kent Mereness, organized the event and did a spectacular job.

Doing anything church-related in the north can be a bit of a Lone Ranger game. Churches up here are named after their towns more often than their streets. So I've desperately needed a way to connect with a wider network of campus ministers and this conference was exactly that.



The Myers Family


On top off all that, I got to visit with some wonderful folks down there in Canyon, including my dear friends the Myers. Tim and Aimee Myers are friends of mine from way back who kindly let me stay in their home and eat all their food the whole weekend long. Tim is the Youth Minister at the University Church of Christ and a fantastic guy. Here is a picture of their lovely family:

That's all I have for this mail out. You have a great day and thanks for reading!


June 2017

Hey everybody!

Summer is in full swing and we are running around doing all the traditional summer events. We have had weddings, helped with moves, worked Vacation Bible Schools, painted things, and did loads of sweating. So far it is shaping up to be a great summer!

The biggest highlight of June was the birth of Thomas and Amy Pruett's new baby girl Moriah Hope Pruett. Hooray! Everyone is healthy and doing well and we are all very excited for this newest addition to this lovely family.


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The Pruett Family


Back at the campus house, our painting and remodeling projects are still cooking right along. The goal is to get this place looking extra sharp by the beginning of the school year. We still have plenty of work ahead of us, but I think we are starting to turn the corner on this thing.

We have also spent a lot of time helping folks move this summer, including myself. One of our students, Zach, moved from one spot to another here in Spearfish. Sarah and I just sold our house and are in the process of moving out while trying to buy a new one (the idea is to down-size and use the extra money to clear out some of our gobs of student debt). Jacob and Kasha Wels, who used to be part of our college group a couple of years back, are moving to Sturgis, so the church headed out there to help with that. And the coolest move, from my perspective, was for a lady none of us knows.

The church got a call from a lady who needed help moving. She has some connection with an area church of Christ, but none of us knew her well. Despite that, our sweet congregation jumped into action and headed over there. The college students and I went over and help too and for three hours we all worked side by side to help someone we didn't know. And one of our girls who isn't sure about God was right there in the middle of it working away with us. It was a beautiful sight to see!


“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

- Hebrews 13:16


Another big June event, was the Faith Vacation Bible School. Their theme was “Mega Sport Camp.” It was a sports camp and Vacation Bible School hybrid. Everyone was a little nervous about the new format, but it went great. I don't know what the numbers were, but I know we had a whole football field full of kids running around practicing their sports and learning about God. They practiced volleyball, soccer, baseball, and lassoing while learning lessons from the life of King David.

I'm a big fan. I'm constantly looking for new ideas and new ways of doing things that work better with our changing culture and this lined up nicely. The event needed less set up, less volunteers, and was less time-intensive for everyone while simultaneously making it more accessible for community members and more engaging for the kids who just have to be moving all the time. As a bonus, all that running around outside time dropped the number of discipline issues we ran into dramatically. We still had plenty of Bible lessons as well, so all told, I thought it went swimmingly.


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Nick And Missy's Wedding


Another proud moment for the campus ministry in June was the wedding of our students, Nick and Missy. They have been looking forward to this day for ages and you can actually see them glowing with joy right now. They joined our group two years ago and have been a big part of us ever since, with their great attitudes and thoughtful questions. We are tremendously proud of this sweet couple and could not be happier for them. Thomas even got to perform both their premarital counseling and their ceremony, so that was a good moment for us too.

And then lastly, I made a quick trip over to Gillette, WY to teach their Sunday morning class and do the sermon. Ernie Bishop, their preacher, was on a trip, so they invited me to come talk for a bit. It is always a treat spending time with those good folks in Gillette. And that's about all for June.

You have a great day and thanks for reading!



May 2017


Hey everybody!


The end of the school year came and left and took most of our students with it. It is a lot quieter around here this summer, but there are still plenty of good things going on. Summer time in the campus ministry world is a time for trips and projects and we have plenty of both around here.

The beginning of May was all about finals week. The students turned in their projects, took their exams, and cleaned out their apartments. There were hugs and tears and good-byes and then, in the space of about a week, the campus became a ghost town. It is always a little eerie. There is all this energy and drama and then, whoop, everything goes calm.

We wrapped up our Old Testament Bible Study series. It ended up being a great study and I think I will do that one again someday. We almost got whiplash from covering so much material, (39 books in 16 lessons), but the whole arc of the Old Testament made so much more sense when we got it in big pieces like that. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees and this helped us pull way back and see what God was doing during those times in history. I know I learned a bunch anyway. Who knew Ezekiel was such a good book?

Around the same time, I went over to Faith and helped with their High School Graduation Ceremony. The church does a great job of it over there. They had

all the families come out to the church for dinner one night with a big cake and some decorations. Then Calvin talked a bit and I talked a bit and they had a lovely candle lighting ceremony. The older teens had lit candles that they used to light the candles of the younger teens, symbolically “Passing the torch of faith” on to the younger ones. Here is a picture, though it might be a little too dark to see much:



Faith's Candle-Lighting Ceremony


In other Faith-related news, I started preparing to help with their Vacation Bible School in June. I usually help teach the teens class for the VBS on the years when I can make it. This year they were planning on doing something a little different. They usually do a regular kind of a VBS with Bible classes and snacks and loud and silly songs, but this year they were going to have their first ever “Mega Bible Sports Camp.” The idea was to mix the Sports Camp format with the Bible School format, so the kids would get some coaching in their favorite sport and some solid biblical lessons. The thought was to make it as accessible to the community as possible. Folks who might be uncomfortable in a church building might be a lot happier sending their kids to the local high school football field to practice their sports in a healthy atmosphere. The event itself was in June, so I'll save that for the next report, but on the whole I think it went really well.

The following weekend I had the honor of performing the wedding ceremony for one of our previous students, Abbey Merchen and her new husband Taylor Anderson. Abbey was a part of our first “Let's Start Talking” mission trip and a big part of our Bible study group. She moved to North Dakota, got engaged, and now they are talking about moving back to the Spearfish area, so it is going to be nice having them in the area again. Here is one of their wedding pictures:


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Abbey and Taylor Anderson Wedding


The Sunday after finals week was the last Sunday before we sent off our “Let's Start Talking” mission team to Natal, Brazil. Our students spontaneously arranged their own sending off party. They all showed up at church that morning, even the ones that don't go to church, just to support our team. In Acts 13, it talks about the leaders in the church in Antioch sending Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey by laying hands on them and praying over them, so we thought we would do something similar (though we forgot the fasting part). So the elders and Thomas and I gathered at the front of the church and prayed over our team, Miss Bailey Hoeft and Miss Rachel Munce, asking God to guide their work in Brazil. It was a holy moment. We sent them away with prayers and happy tears.


“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”

- Acts 13:2-3


Shortly after that, our team flew out and they have been in Brazil ever since. They are scheduled to come home at the end of July. I haven't talked with them extensively yet, but every time we do talk they are excited and doing good things. They are going to come back sun-burnt and overflowing with stories about how God has been working in their hearts and the hearts of their readers, so I can't wait to hear all about it.

Then the last week of May I got to take some vacation and go visit my family back in Tacoma, WA. It was the first time my son Patrick has ever been to Washington, so it was a pretty special trip for us. Anyway, thanks for reading! You have a great day!




April 2017


Hey everybody! April 2017

The school year is over and we are heading swiftly into the summer. The students are taking off every which way and it is starting to get a lot quieter around here, which is kind of nice because the last month was busy, busy, busy. April was a great month for the campus ministry.

We finished out this school year strong. We had several individual Bible studies going, our weekly big group Bible study was bringing in more people than we had all year, and we finally started our weekly praise time on the campus green. I am so proud of our students.

Our ministry here is decidedly on the evangelistic end of the spectrum. We usually have a few strongly committed Christians, a lot of seekers, and some who are just here for the food (which I still love having in our group). So in the 4.5 years I've been here, we have never had enough Christians in our Christian Student Center to really have any good praise and worship.

We have tried a couple of times. I don't know how many solo numbers I have sang over the years that have crashed into giggles when we realized I was the only one singing. I grew up with a deep love for worship through song, so I've always wanted that for my students and have never been able to get it.


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Singing On The Campus Green

Until now. This last month or two, the students organized their own “Singing On The Campus Green” on Wednesday nights after our Wednesday night services. They made their own songbooks, they set the time and place, and they made the whole thing happen. Here are two pictures of our students getting together for their devotional time. The bottom picture is of them on the campus and the top picture is them drinking hot coco and coffee afterwards. And I am thrilled about the whole thing!


“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.”

- Psalm 30:4


In other news, we started repainting our Christian Student Center and doing some general repairs. Over the last couple of years, we have had loads of activity in here and it is starting to take its toll. The whole place is in need of a good sprucing. So the last half of this semester we started painting all the rooms with a bunch of nice light grays and blues. The idea is to make the space feel as large as possible, due to us having a bigger group lately. Over the summer we plan to keep working on it, both inside and out, until this place shines this Fall.

As far as outreach in April, we participated in the new “Sting In The Spring” event. It was a week of fun activities for the students right before the end of the school year as a “one last big party” sort of idea. We helped out by running a “Frisbee Toss” booth on “Carnival Day.” It was silly, but it was also just another way to get our club out in front of people. We also had around half a dozen of our students help run the booth, which is a great sign that our crew is getting more involved lately.

Along those same lines, the Sundance Church of Christ hosted an area-wide church singing event and we had a huge showing. Usually we only have a student or two show up, but this time we had five of our student representing us. It was a beautiful thing!

Our group is coming together in a big way this semester. There have been a lot of good friendships built and, as we hit the end of the semester, there were a lot of tears and hugs. Here is a picture of our students from our last Bible study of the school year:


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Bible Study Spring 2017


We are all simultaneously excited about next year and a little nervous. Our sweet Bailey is moving back home to Hawley, Minnesota this Fall. Our sweet Rachel just graduated and will probably be back here in the Fall, but jobs could lead her anywhere. And our sweet Chanel is also moving away this summer to look for better career opportunities.

These three girls have been here longer than just about anyone else and have been the heart and soul of our group. We are sad to see them go, but we look forward to seeing how God uses them next. We are also excited about the Fall because we have a lot of new faces in our group and we look forward to whatever great adventures God has in mind for us next. So we are all just a jumble of emotions these days.

Thanks for reading! You have a great day!


March 2017


Hey everybody!

I hope today finds you well and the weather lovely. Here is the report on the campus ministry events of March. We didn't have any really big events, but we did have a lot of smaller things that all worked together to make March a great month for us.

Our LST team is getting excited and we are almost done with our training for the trip. They are going on a 10-week mission trip to Natal, Brazil to teach English using the book of Luke. It is a wonderful thing to do all the way around! To help with their fund-raising, we hosted a Silent Dessert Auction at the church building during a potluck one day. Our kindhearted church folks made up loads of fancy desserts and brought them to potluck. Then we laid them all out and people bid on which desserts they wanted while we were all eating the meal. After lunch, we had a big count down and a dramatic drum roll and read off the winners for each of the desserts. It was a lot of fun.

I walked away with a tray of homemade “Coffee Cupcakes With Chocolate Ganache” and an entire cake made out of doughnuts and cream. It was glorious! I donated the doughnut cake to the college students while Sarah and I ate the cupcakes and we are all still trying to shake off our diabetic comas we got from the event. Next month we are going to have to have a church-sponsored period of fasting just to make up for all the calories, but it was well-worth it and we earned nearly $500 for the mission trip.

After that, we had a reasonably normal week and then “The Week Of Weeks.” It was rocking. We had something going just about every day and it was mostly area unity kinds of things. It reminded me of Philippians 2:1-2, which says:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

- Philippians 2:1-2

So the Sturgis Church of Christ, twenty minutes down the road, is in between preachers right now and we are helping out with their preaching once a month. Sarah and I went over there on the 12th and had a great time with those lovely people. Then we had our regular Monday night Bible study on Monday, our monthly “Church Leader Eatin' Meetin'” on Tuesday, and I went up to help with the Faith Church of Christ's youth night on Wednesday. It was a mile a minute!

Recently our preacher man, Thomas Pruett, organized a “Preacher Swap” with the area congregations for a couple times a year. It is a wonderful thing and even though we have only done it a handful of times, it is building some great connections within the area churches. So that following Sunday, the 19th, I participated in that one too. Sarah and I drove over to Rapid and I spoke at the West Main Church of Christ and enjoyed a lovely lunch with those bunch of sweeties. Then we had our Monday Night Bible Study again to round it all out.

For those keeping track at home, that was 6 events in 9 days, which is hopping, hopping, hopping.


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Our monthly Church Leader Eatin' Meetin'

Incidentally, our monthly Church Leader Eatin' Meetin' is hitting its stride in a big way recently. We picked up a couple new guys from Rapid and it is just a very encouraging time for everyone involved. It is equal parts theology and therapy with a dash of area events thrown in for good measure and I can't talk it up enough.

Our college group also had a great surprise this month. One of our previous students, Corbin Sigle, came back and jumped in with both feet. He has been involved with our group on and off over the last couple of years as his schedule allows, but I have never seen him get this involved before. He has a fire under him now.

He showed up to one Monday Night Bible Study and then came over to hang out the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that he invited a bunch of the students over to hang out. And the day after that they decided to have a movie night. And he helped organize some sort of group event every day that weekend. And he has been a big part of everything we have done since. Everyone is excited and spending more time together as a group and I'm pretty happy about the whole thing.

There is even talk of starting a late night devotional time out on the campus green. I've always wanted to start a worship time with our group and never been able to get it together since the group hasn't been that interested yet. However, interest is growing and I think we just might be able to pull this off.

I asked Corbin the other day about what caused such a huge change in his behavior. He said a lot of things have been changing in his life lately and talked about everything that has been going on. He is a pretty private guy, so I'll leave out the details, but it boiled down to big changes in his schedule and a deep desire to be part of a good Christian community again. He just has God working on his heart and has to do something about it, plain and simple. How cool is that?

Anyway, thanks for reading! You have a great day!



February 2017

Hey everybody!

I hope this mail out finds you happy and grateful. We have a lot to be happy and thankful for around here. February was a great month for us. We had a handful of regularly scheduled events, a new event, a youth rally, and some new faces around here, so it was exciting.

We did all our normal kinds of events, of course. We hosted an area church leader event, I drove to Faith and worked with their young people for an evening, we did our “Let's Start Talking” training and premarital counseling, and had a little Super Bowl Party. We hosted our weekly Bible studies and more of our students are getting into our informal group study of “Mere Christianity,” so that all is going well.

On top of that though, we got invited to participate in BHSU's first ever “Wellness Fair.” The idea was to have a bunch of organizations get together and set up booths in the Student Union that promoted healthy living. We accepted the invitation and started building a booth to promote prayer and meditation. We wanted to have something that compared what our minds look like when we are fractured and busy verses prayerful and meditative.


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Our Wellness Fair Booth 2017

Now, I'm not a terribly artsy person, but we have a couple of students that are, so I put them in charge of the project and they came through with flying colors. Here is a picture of our booth. It is two blackboards with mirrors glued to them. One side has sharp of glass everywhere and represents how shattered our minds get in our culture of constant sensory bombardment. The other side simply has one mirror on it and represents how we can see ourselves more clearly when we take the time to be prayerful and calm. I'm really happy with the way the booth turned out. Our girls did a great job on it.

So we hauled it down to the Student Union and set it up and started making contacts and spreading the good news of prayer. We didn't have a huge amount of interest in our booth, but we did meet some folks and build some bridges with the Counseling Center staff, so it was well worth the time.

One of the quirks of our particular ministry is the wide spectrum of beliefs present. This came up again at the Wellness Fair in a big way. At one point, I left our booth with some of our students and checked out the other booths for awhile. When I got back, I realized the two students who were running our Christian Student Organization booth were both atheists. They realized it too and we all had a good laugh. Whether or not they believe in God, they believe in what we are doing as a group, and that's not a bad place to start.

The biggest thing we did in February was our Northern Hills Church of Christ 3rd Annual Youth Rally. This year's theme was “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan and it was a lovely time. The first year we were flailing a bit trying to get all the organization right. The second year we fine-tuned it, but still had some kinks. This year it went off splendidly. We finally hit our stride.


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Calvin Chapman Telling Us We Are God's Babies

Everyone was having a good time and learning about Jesus together. It was everything a good youth rally should be. Alan Hardison, one of our elders, even remarked, “You know, this wasn't just a youth rally; all the adults who came are having a good time and being encouraged by this too.”

And one of the best parts was how much of the area was involved. We had teens coming from a hundred miles in either direction and representing 7 different congregations. We even had one oddball group drive over from Iowa. Our speakers came from all over the northern hills. We had lessons from Calvin Chapman from Faith, Ernie Bishop from Gillette, Matt Kenaston from Sturgis, and Byran Lessly, Alan Hardison, and I from Spearfish. Jim Price from Rapid City and Thomas Pruett from Spearfish led singing.

It was beautiful to see all these folks from all these churches getting along and working together to put on a spiritually encouraging weekend for our young people. It reminded me of Psalm 133, which says:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

- Psalm 133:1

Thanks for reading! You have a great day!





January 2017

Hey everybody!

Man, January was hopping around here! Some months are quieter than others and I spend more of my mail outs talking about scripture or my latest theological musings. This will not be the case with this particular mail out. I got tired just counting up all the things we did in January. So I apologize in advance if this turns into a list more than a letter, but there was just a lot of things going on.

January started with most of the student still on break, of course. I spent some time reading and writing and I helped one of our guys, Zach, move houses. Zach cracks me up. He is a staunch atheist, but he is here all the time, so he has an open heart for sure. Anyway, I was helping move boxes into his new living room and I got to meet his new roommate, Anthony, who is also an atheist. Anthony cussed about something and Zach said, “Oh hey, just so you know, Silas is a priest, but he is cool.” I thought it was a wonderful compliment! Zach has invited his roommate to just about every Bible study since. Anthony hasn't come yet, but I think God is moving in here somewhere and I can't wait to see what He is doing in their hearts.

We started up our Bible studies again on the first day of the new semester and had a great turn out. Two of our students we hadn't seen in a while came and joined us. We started into an Old Testament Survey class since most of the students don't know a lot about the Old Testament. Also, I tend to spend most of my time teaching out of the New Testament, so I thought it was probably time to switch it up. The students are enjoying material and it is going very well. They are doing a great job asking questions and growing in their faiths.

One of our student, Brittany, and I smiling for the camera:

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In fact, later in the January I decided I needed a way to engage with my intellectual students more. The big group Bible study is good, but I can only get so detailed with the text. I needed a way to challenge my students in their beliefs and kick it up a notch. So I bought a couple of copies of C.S. Lewis' “Mere Christianity” and started passing them around. It was a great idea!

My students who believe in God are getting their faiths stretched and my students who don't believe in God are getting their whole belief systems challenged. And the students are eating it up! The three copies I got aren't nearly enough. Last Monday for example, one of our girls was asking for another copy for a friend. I'm ecstatic about it! It is hard to find material that is accessible and challenging for all walks of faith, but “Mere Christianity” is doing the trick here.

On the 11th, we participated in the Spring Student Organization Fair on campus. All the student organizations get a chance to set up a booth in the hallway and drum up interest for their clubs. We always have some kind of “hook” to get attention, but it is always so noisy and crowded at these events that I decided to go minimalistic this time. We made a big black chalk board sign that just said, “Why?” on it and set that up. I figured we would try to use that to spur people into asking the big questions about who we are and what we are doing here that the naturalistic worldviews can't answer.

On one hand, the sign didn't seem that effective. I'm not sure anyone asked about it at all. On the other hand, the event was a success because we did get the signatures of several students interested in our organization. In fact, one of them even showed up. A young lady named Stephanie expressed interest, showed up to one of our Bible studies, and has come to almost every study since. She is quickly becoming one of our regular members and a great addition to our group.

We also did a lot of regularly scheduled events. We hosted our area church leader lunch and I took my monthly trip up to work with the Faith youth group. The Sturgis Church of Christ hosted one of our quarterly area-wide church singings and that was a lot of fun. Those really are a huge boon to the unity of the body of believers in the area. Our LST team, Bailey and Rachel, flew to Oklahoma City for a weekend team training for their trip, so excitement is building there. I started some premarital counseling with a young couple getting married in May.

The last big thing that happened in January was a trip Thomas and I took on a mission of unity. We discovered in early January that there was an entire Church of Christ in the area that we had never even heard about. So naturally we called them up and set up a lunch meeting to invite them to our area-wide singings. They were excited about it too and we made the arrangements.

The first twenty minutes or so we enjoyed a great conversation, but it quickly became clear that they were not as keen on area unity. In fact, it ended up being a pretty difficult conversation all the way around. Suffice it to say, they did not accept our area-wide singing invitation and when Thomas and I left, we immediately went out and bought some doughnuts.

However, it was worth it. It was a difficult lunch, but it was worth it. No one can say we didn't try. We fought for the unity of the body of Christ that day. I encourage you, wherever you are, keep fighting for the unity of the body of Christ. It is worth it. It is always worth it. And if you would, would you please take a moment to pray for greater unity of the body of Christ? It is beautiful and perpetual struggle and always worth it.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

-John 17:22-23

Thanks everyone! You have a great day!