DBU Encourages West Students to Stand with Hope

DBU student serving West Students

Dallas, TX - On Friday, April 26, a busload of 54 junior high and high school students from West, Texas, traveled to the Dallas Baptist University campus in southeast Dallas for a Disciple Now (DNow) weekend of spiritual renewal, small group interaction, recreational games, and an outpouring of love from college students.

"It was a great opportunity to bring the students away from all that was happening in West and provide a weekend to have fun and remind them that through it all, God is there beside them," said Chase Thomson, a DBU junior from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The DNow was originally going to be held at the First Baptist Church of West, with DBU students coming to serve as leaders for the weekend through the University's Encounter ministry. The fertilizer plant explosion that occurred in West on Wednesday, April 17, devastated the entire community and soon prevented the church from being able to host the event for area students. When the Associate Pastor and Youth Minister from First Baptist West, Phil Immicke, called DBU to share that they would not be able to host the youth discipleship weekend, DBU President Dr. Gary Cook prayed about how the University could reach out and help. He soon called the associate pastor back and told him if they were willing, DBU would like to host the weekend on the DBU campus instead.

As DBU staff quickly began planning the DNow, many around the Metroplex willingly pitched in with donations and discounts to make the weekend possible. Discounts on hotel rooms for the students were provided, a bus company gave a reduced rate for the weekend for transportation, and a merchandise company donated t-shirts for all the students.

"I was amazed by how generous so many people were to respond in love to the community of West and in partnership for the work of God," said Dr. Blair Blackburn, DBU executive vice president.

Additionally, faculty, staff, and students donated gift cards for each student, along with care packages for them to take back home. The DBU community and surrounding area rallied together to make the weekend a reality for the junior high and high school students who had been through so much.

"It was absolutely incredible to see how the Lord provided this weekend," Chris Holloway, director of global missions, expressed. "From the various donations to the outpouring of love from the community and DBU, I was blown away to witness these awesome kids have a great time away from all the chaos back home. To see them worship was such a blessing, and it warmed my heart to know that the anthem of this youth group in regards to the explosion is 'God is bigger than this!'"

The weekend's theme, "Stand with Hope," soon resounded with all involved, and the theme verse from Romans 5:2 rang true: "through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God."

Jay Harley, dean of students and spiritual life, served as the speaker for the weekend and challenged students to live standing confidently in their hope in Christ. During his talk, Harley sought to help students become aware of cultural idols that may be in their lives. Due to the recent tragedy, many realized how fleeting possessions can be and how precious life is.

Small group discussions were led by DBU students throughout the weekend, who found themselves greatly inspired by the strength and stamina of the West students. A goal during the weekend was to help the students realize the depth of God's love and faithfulness to them.

"While an explosion is what brought these students to DBU, this weekend was about the Lord and the hope we have in Him," said DBU student Kristen Hendrix. "In every song we sang and every small group conversation we had, we prayed to the Lord to thank Him for His faithfulness in our lives."

As the weekend came to a close, West students grew excited to return back home and share with their friends and family about all that they had learned. Many expressed how they felt rejuvenated and ready to assist with the recovery work that was still left to be done in West.

When the bus returned home, the DBU staff and West students were greeted by members of the church. Pastor Crowder expressed his deep-felt gratitude for all of the time, energy and resources donated to make the weekend possible. With tears in his eyes, he shared, "You really cannot understand what you have done for us, what you have done for our community."

The DBU representatives pledged to the pastor that the help would not end there, with promises of continued prayer support and plans already underway to help lead next year's DNow weekend. Even in the midst of ongoing trial and tragedy, those involved were reminded of the Lord's faithfulness regardless of circumstance and will not soon forget the blessings that the Lord bestowed during the time of worship and learning.

"Our hope and prayer at Dallas Baptist University is that people will come to know the Lord as their Savior and to trust Him as their hope and strength through this life-changing experience," Dr. Blackburn concluded.

Written by Kalie Lowrie

Kalie Lowrie was the former Director of News and Information at Dallas Baptist University.

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