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Wendy Contreras: Born to Sing

Today's student story features an amazing undergrad who's developing a life-changing gift. 

wendy_mainWendy Contreras has always loved to sing. She wanted to pursue music in college, but she wasn't convinced that she was capable.

Her insecurities faded during her freshman year when she began taking classes with MU’s private voice instructor, who recognized a rich potential.

“She made me see that I needed to pursue singing and never give up,” Contreras says. “If something’s meant for you, you’ll succeed.”

Contreras also credits Stan Campbell, director of MU's music program, with helping her see that the point of making music: bringing people back to God.

“I saw how the Lord used my music to touch people,” she says. “When I realized that he’d given me this gift, I wanted to be responsible with it.”

Since then, Contreras has learned piano at MU, and she's honed her talents in the university’s jazz ensemble. She also leads worship at MU’s weekly chapels.

The more she saturates herself in music, the more people ask her to sing at their churches or on albums they’re producing.

“God has been opening doors for me everywhere,” she says.

MU’s vibrant community of musicians has also played a big role in Contreras’ development as a vocalist. She used be afraid to share music she’d written. But once she did, her peers were full of compliments and support.

“I realized that I’d underestimated myself,” she says. “Now I can open up to fellow musicians.”

Despite all the recognition, Contreras says the most important thing she’s learned at MU is how to be humble.

“Humility is acknowledging everything you have without boasting,” she says. “I had to realize I was good at singing, but that it’s not for me – it’s for God’s glory. This is what I was created to do.”

 

 

Tawny Johnson: Cultivating Knowledge

This week we're featuring a student story about Tawny Johnson, who graduated from both our college and seminary. When Johnson started attending undergrad classes at 45, she had no idea why God had called her to MU. Nearly ten years later, she knows exactly why.

“Isn’t that a guy’s thing?” Tawny Johnson had just told someone she was going to seminary, and that was his response.

Johnson paused. She had never thought that learning about God was gender exclusive — but she was finding that many Christians did.

“There’s a common impression that studying theology at a master’s level is just for men,” Johnson says. “But theology is not masculine.”

Multnomah welcomes men and women into all its programs; nevertheless, its seminary is currently composed of mostly men. This never bothered Johnson; it only highlighted the importance of a seminary education for all Christians, regardless of gender.

'Take responsibility' 

“There’s been an emphasis in some areas of the Church to rely on men, but women need to delve into things themselves and take responsibility for their own spiritual lives,” Johnson says. “Regardless of what you think about men and women leadership roles in the church…that’s beside the point. It’s not a gender issue — it’s a Christian issue.”

Tawny_mainJohnson and Multnomah go way back.

In the ‘80s, she worked full-time for Multnomah Press, a publishing company previously owned by Multnomah. After 13 years filled with administration, marketing, foreign publishing, design, advertising and product development, she left her job in 1992, when Multnomah sold the press to another publishing company.

The right thing

Johnson took the loss of a successful career as a gain in her family life: She spent the next 13 years homeschooling her two daughters.

In 2005, she felt God leading her to Multnomah. She didn’t know why she was supposed to go. All she knew was that it was the right thing to do. So, with the support of her husband and children, she enrolled, not realizing that she was beginning a nine-year journey.

'It wasn't about me'

Freshman orientation in the undergrad program found her surrounded by 18-year-olds. Johnson was 45. “It was a bit intimidating to come back to school as an older adult,” she says. “But I knew that it wasn't about me — it was about what God wanted to do in me.”

For six years, Johnson attended MU while working part time as a receptionist at a hair salon. In 2010, she graduated with a minor in English. After she accepted her diploma and took her seat, she watched as MU’s master’s students were fitted with hoods — a sign of their academic achievements.

“I thought, ‘I want one of those!’” she says. One year later, she was back at Multnomah — this time for a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree.

'Part of a whole'

“I chose theological studies because it was a chance to integrate my love of theology and my love of history,” she says. “Now I have a broader view of the Church — I feel like I’m a part of a whole, and I appreciate the people who came before me in sacrifice and obedience.”

One of her favorite things about seminary was her teachers. “The professors at Multnomah are its strength,” she says. “They care about the student, and they cultivate an environment of stimulating exchange. They also help you think critically and address some misconceptions you probably have.”

One faculty member in particular, Dr. Brad Harper, taught several of Johnson’s theology classes over the years. “One time, he asked me if I felt out of place in the seminary,” she says. “I absolutely did not. My classmates and I all felt called to be there. Gender was never an issue with the professors or with my — almost exclusively male — counterparts.”

'My dream job'

Last month, Johnson finally earned her “hoodie”, as she affectionately calls it. “I threatened my husband that I was going to wear it to the grocery store, just to get some mileage out of it!” she jokes.

But Johnson began reaping the benefits of her degree before she was even finished with seminary. Just a few months before graduation, she was invited to join D.C. Jacobson & Associates as a literary agent.

“It’s my dream job,” she says. “My education in recognizing exceptional writing, depth of content and theological integrity has led me to this career. Multnomah was instrumental in cultivating that passion and knowledge which will assist me as I assess Christian books for publication. I will always feel connected to MU, and I'm sincerely grateful for the role it has played in my life.”

National Award Caps Remarkable College Experience

Erik Mendoza has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. Like most kids, he learned the basics from dad in his front driveway. But unlike most kids, Mendoza began attending the Chicago Bulls Training Academy when he was 8. It was the '90s in Chicago. The Bulls were heroes; Michael Jordan was a king.

Mendoza, a die-hard Jordan fan, stayed at the academy until he was 15. After playing all four years of high school, he was ready to compete at the college level. A small school didn't appeal to him. He definitely wasn't planning on going to Multnomah.

erik_main‘Jesus has changed my life’

Mendoza’s step-dad and step-grandfather had attended MU. They had great things to say about the close-knit school in Portland. So despite some misgivings, Mendoza decided to visit.

Ultimately, it was the people that won him over.

"I was excited to move out West," he said. "And I had this curiosity about my faith."

Mendoza had been raised in the Church, but he was uncertain about what he'd learned there. Things changed when he moved onto campus his first year.

"When I came to MU, I was tired of an empty life," he said. Four years later, Mendoza is a different man. "Jesus has changed my life," he said. "He has given me so much peace."

Mendoza was also given endless opportunities to mature as an athlete and a Christ follower. His heart for others did not go unnoticed: This year, he was honored with the Pete Maravich Memorial Award, a national honor that annually recognizes an outstanding NCCAA senior who has shown excellence in competition, skill, academics and service.

‘I didn’t want to leave’

A year into Multnomah, Mendoza wasn't sure he was going to stay. He had developed a strong interest in business and marketing. At the time, MU had yet to launch its business program, so Mendoza considered transferring to a different school. He couldn't do it.

"I had made such good relationships here," he said. "I didn't want to leave."

The more he spoke to people about his interest in marketing, the more he felt a pull toward a psychology degree. Ultimately, he decided he could stay at MU and work toward the business world.

‘I've learned so much’

And that's exactly what Mendoza has done. During his sophomore year, he began working as a product tester for one of the world's top sports brands, Adidas. Every couple months, he'd take a pair of prototype shoes home and "wear the heck out of them." Over the next several months, Mendoza would take detailed notes on how the shoes felt, performed and stood up to countless hours in the court. Then he’d submit his observations to Adidas before starting the process all over again.

After two years of testing shoes, Mendoza interned in the product development department. The rapport he's built with Adidas, coupled with the experience he's gained at MU, has opened several doors for him. Since graduating in May, Adidas has hired him as a full-time retail marketing specialist for its basketball, baseball and football divisions.

"I have no marketing experience," Mendoza said. "But through earning my psychology degree, I've learned so much about how people work. To translate that into marketing has not been that hard; it's actually given me a boost in how I view marketing."

Mendoza hasn't only learned how people think, he's also come to appreciate others more than ever. His second major, Bible & Theology, has helped him do that. "I love the layout of the program — that you get to go through the whole Bible in four years," he said. "And I appreciated the teaching. The professors are fantastic; they make it such a strong program, and they relate the Bible to real life."

erik_slider

A better and stronger person’

But it's the basketball team that's been the driving force in Mendoza's life these past four years.

"The team was the catalyst for me being at this school, learning what I've learned," he said. "It was always the one constant thing in my life."

Mendoza thrived while playing for the Lions. He served as team captain for three years. Basketball coach Curt Bickley puts a heavy emphasis on missions and community service; he's accompanied Mendoza and his team on mission trips to the Czech Republic and Taiwan. Mendoza has also volunteered, alongside his teammates, at Providence Children's Hospital for the past four years.

"All these things make the basketball team more than a basketball team," he said. "Coach Bickley is a fantastic role model. He creates men. He'll be blunt with you. But if you stick around, you'll come out a better and stronger person. He's one of the people here who has impacted me the most."

‘It’s been a good four years’

It was because of Bickley that Erik was nominated for the Pete Maravich Memorial Award.

"It never crossed my mind that I'd be nominated," Mendoza said. But Bickley had been impressed by Mendoza's growth during his time at MU, and he recommended him to the group of coaches that determines the award-winner.

The coaches voted for Mendoza.

When Bickley called him with the news, Mendoza was shocked. "I hadn't known I was even nominated until he called me and told me I'd won," he said. "I was pretty blown away."

The award seemed to come at the perfect time.

"I had been really anxious and scared about my basketball career ending, and I was trying to ignore it," he said. "It was bittersweet — but amazing — to see how God wrapped up my time here: The season came to an end, I made my last shot and then I found out about the award.

"I felt like it was God's way of saying, 'You've done a good job here, but it doesn't have to be sad. It's been a good four years, but it's time to move on to the next phase.'"

MU Hosts Seminar for MAT Students and Certified Teachers

education_mainMultnomah is hosting a development seminar for MAT students and teachers on May 31. PPS principal Emily Glasgow will speak on how to connect with all families in your school community. Come ready to be challenged, enlightened and educated on how to reach diverse populations and better serve the kids in your classrooms. Attending this seminar will earn you 4 CEUs.

Learn how and why to positively engage all families in their children's education.

Get ready to:

  • Develop a shared understanding on why family engagement is a critical component in student success and what types of family engagement matter the most.
  • Deepen understanding and empathy for our children’s families — view family engagement from their perspective.
  • Discuss and problem-solve around common obstacles to family engagement in urban public schools.
  • Leave with concrete tools and action steps to deepen and maximize your relationship with your students' families.

Emily Glasgow, our featured speaker, brings a rich history of experience with her:

  • Principal of Vestal K8 School in PPS
  • Principal of K8 School in the Boston Public School District for 7 years
  • Masters in School Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education

Don't miss out on this great opportunity. Register today.

When: Saturday, May 31

Time: 9 a.m. - 12 noon

Cost: $25 if you pre-register, $30 at the door, $20 for Multnomah Alumni and $10 for current MU students and faculty

Where: Multnomah University
8435 NE Glisan St., Portland, OR.
Mitchell Library, Room #108

Refreshments will be provided.

Email Kathy McKee at kmckee@multnomah.edu if you have any questions. And spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.

Register for our Advanced Ministry Lectureship Series

Advanced Ministry Lectureship Series

What

We're sponsoring an opportunity to hear from some well-respected speakers MU has brought in for its DMin and MAAT programs. This free lectureship series is open to the general public and geared toward ministry practitioners. Our guest speakers will be telling us about their unique ministries and what they see as relevant for the local church in our current culture and context. Space is still available. Register today.

Where

In the JCA Student Center on the Multnomah University campus

When and Who

Wednesday, June 4George Hunsberger

Dr. Hunsberger is professor of missiology at Western Theological Seminary. He is known and respected for his work on the missional church.

Thursday, June 5Josh Butler

Butler is pastor of local & global outreach at Imago Dei Community and author of soon-to-be-published "The Skeletons in God’s Closet".

Monday, June 9Terry Muck

Dr. Muck is executive director of The Louisville Institute and known for his work on Christianity and world religions.

Tuesday, June 10Hugh Halter

As an author and speaker, Halter travels extensively to encourage and equip pastors in incarnational ministry and missional leadership.

Wednesday, June 11Carolyn Custis James

James is the president and founder of Whitby Forum, and she speaks and writes extensively on women and men serving together in ministry.

Thursday, June 12Christena Cleveland

Dr. Cleveland is passionate about overcoming cultural divisions in groups. In August, she’ll be starting her new position as associate professor of reconciliation studies at Bethel University.

Time

Each lecture will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Check Out Our New D.Min. Track: Global Evangelism

We sat down with Dr. Derek Chinn, director of MU's Doctor of Ministry program, to find out more about the degree's latest track, global evangelism.

Space is still available, and classes start June 2. If you have questions about this track or want to register, contact Dr. Chinn by emailing dchinn@multnomah.edu or calling 503-251-6732.

What's the purpose of the global evangelism track?

Dr. Luis Palau

Dr. Luis Palau

This track is in line with Multnomah’s goal of equipping its students for global mission. The education our students receive is biblically-grounded and academically rigorous, and it deliberately integrates what's learned in the classroom with ministry that takes place in the real world.

How will the track prepare students for missional work?

The majority of the students are already evangelists. They are currently doing the very thing God has gifted them to do, and they will continue to evangelize to those who don’t know Jesus and train local congregations to share the Gospel.

Getting a D.Min. degree will give them the opportunity to study more in-depth the theological underpinnings of evangelism, learn about different strategies and methodologies for evangelism, develop a better understanding and appreciation for the work that builds and sustains evangelistic ministry, and learn from fellow evangelists serving in different contexts.

How is this track distinct from programs offered by other seminaries?

evangelism_tim

Dr. Tim Robnett

Students participate and study with instructors who are actively engaged in evangelism around the world. The faculty mentor, Dr. Tim Robnett, is president of Tim Robnett Ministries, and he actively trains and mentors evangelists, locally and internationally. International evangelist Dr. Luis Palau is the senior lecturer for this track and will participate in the instruction. Guest lecturers are respected educators and practitioners in evangelism.

How is the track enriching in terms of professional, spiritual and personal development?

Students will use their professional ministry skills in the church and for the community to equip believers in the ministry of evangelism. They are expected to nurture their personal relationship with God and mature in personal character. Participants in this track will have ample opportunity to reflect on and develop a process of adaptation and application of biblical principles in the area of evangelism.

What makes this program stand out?

The experience that Dr. Robnett and Dr. Palau bring to the classroom is outstanding, and I can't think of any program that brings these types of skills and experience to bear. Dr. Robnett’s deep understanding of how evangelists are gifted and wired significantly shapes how instruction will occur, what coursework is assigned, and what topics will be covered.

Want to find out more about Multnomah Biblical Seminary? Check out our seminary page

Seminary Students to Join Leading Scholars at Oxford

Translating a never-before-seen Dead Sea Scrolls fragment is exciting enough. But when that fragment paves the way to an all-expenses-paid trip to Oxford, it brings learning to a whole new level.

Haley Cloyd and Daniel Somboonsiri have been selected to attend the Logos Conference, a two-week internship in Oxford sponsored by the Green Scholars Initiative (GSI). Only students working on GSI projects were invited to apply for the summer conference, where world-renowned academic experts will teach them history, theology and textual studies.

‘I felt like Charlie with the golden ticket’

OxfordPhotoCloyd has been working on MU’s GSI Dead Sea Scrolls project since last fall, and Somboonsiri began analyzing the fragment this spring. Biblical Languages Chair Dr. Karl Kutz, who directs this GSI project, told a few of his Hebrew students about the opportunity in January and encouraged them to apply.

Somboonsiri was shocked when he heard that he was chosen for the internship. “I felt like Charlie with the golden ticket in my hand,” he says. “It’s surreal.”

Cloyd was ecstatic when she received the news. “I’m so excited about the Bodleian Library — it has ancient manuscripts, a Gutenburg Bible and manuscripts written by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien!” she says. “And I’m excited to meet more Hebrew nerds from other schools.”

“I’m not surprised they were selected,” says Kutz. “They are both very capable. I’m very proud of them.”

Kutz will attend the second week of the conference, when professors and students work side-by-side with ancient manuscripts from the Green Collection. “I have a tremendous amount of gratitude to the Green family for their stewardship of the resources God has given them,” he says. “I’m looking forward to working on the projects with the students for most of the day. I enjoy the intense academic environment.”

Students from more than 60 schools in North America applied for the internship, and only 30 were selected. Five additional students who have already participated in the internship were chosen to serve as teaching assistants.

“I know we have a very quality program,” says Kutz. “I think it shows in our students by how well they read the language.”

‘Geek heaven’

OxfordStudent2A few years ago, Somboonsiri was doubtful he could excel in his Hebrew classes. “I thought learning the language was going to be the most daunting thing,” he says. “But Dr. Kutz’s curriculum doesn’t depend on rote memorization; instead, you understand how the language lives and breathes.”

This unique approach, coupled with supportive faculty, made Somboonsiri realize he could do more than he ever thought was possible. “The professors here are so passionate about Hebrew — it’s infectious,” he says. “I’ve been inspired to push myself in my studies thanks to their experience and guidance.”

Now all that work has paid off, and Somboonsiri can’t wait to reap the benefits. “I’m looking forward to the dinner chats with the scholars, especially the chats focused on apologetics,” he says. “We’ll get to hear from them about what it looks like to be a person of faith in the world of academia. To have the advice of people who have walked that path will be amazing.”

Somboonsiri plans to follow in their footsteps. After graduation, he wants to earn a Ph.D. and teach theology and Hebrew at a university. “My heart is to disciple people to be passionate about holistically living in Christ by participating in His redemptive mission in the world,” he says. “I would love to spend my life preparing people of the kingdom to live sacrificially as they bear witness to Jesus’ sacrificial love.”

In the meantime, he’s looking forward to representing his school at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. “Multnomah is small, but Dr. Kutz is very respected,” he says. “His language program is geek heaven. It’s the best in the country.”

‘A glimpse of the bigger picture’

OxfordStudent1Cloyd feels the same way. “Multnomah’s Hebrew program has a high level of scholarship, and the professors build that up in their students,” she says. “What’s really cool is that Dr. Kutz comes alongside you and shows you how to do things. He gets to know each student, and then tailors projects to fit the person.”

The individual attention and rigorous courses have given Cloyd a love for Hebrew that she couldn’t image life without. “Our professors encourage curiosity and investigating,” she says. “And you have to be curious to do research. Otherwise, it can get boring.”

Cloyd isn’t just passionate about the research — she’s invested in every word she’s studying. “The professors have given us a love for the Word, for knowing it well and for knowing its history,” she says. “To study the Bible well, you have to respect the saints who came before you and approach the book with humility.”

Like Somboonsiri, Cloyd plans to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation. Her time in Oxford will bring her dream of being a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies closer than ever.

“There are the practical ways the internship will help me — it can go on my résumé, and it looks good,” she says. “But even more than that, it’s affirming that what I’m studying isn’t silly. It’s not just a hobby. And it’s not just something to pay the bills. I’m going to be able to do work that I love. This internship is just a glimpse of the bigger picture.”

Interested in finding out more about our Hebrew program? Check out MU's Biblical Hebrew page.

Have questions about MU's programs or enrollment? Send us a note. We'd love to hear from you. 

MU Partners with Portland Police to Create Safer Campus

Comments Off Written on April 25th, 2014 by
Categories: Events

smiling officerMultnomah University hosted an all-day training exercise with the Portland Police Bureau's Rapid Response Team (RRT) on campus April 25, 2014. The RRT, a group composed of 70 law enforcement members, spent the day practicing crowd control procedures and techniques. More than 30 law enforcement officials from the Portland metro area, Washington and California observed the scenarios.

Sgt. David Abrahamson, RRT member and former Multnomah student, led the training. Abrahamson was excited to spearhead the event, which was mutually beneficial for emergency responders and the University. “We have an ethical and moral responsibility to our citizens that our response to them is safe and efficient,” he said.

police

For Abrahamson, the opportunity to join Multnomah in a communal effort was inspiring. “This process has blessed all of us,” he said. “MU has gone above and beyond to help us. I can't say enough good things about this school.

“I hope the event caused people to start imagining what they would do in an emergency situation. The concepts that they gleaned today are things they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”

MU Communications Specialist Kristina Rhodes was in close contact with Abrahamson and other local law enforcement officials and coordinated communication with MU students, staff and faculty during the weeks before the training. “It's Multnomah's privilege to partner with Portland Police in an effort to increase the safety of our community,” she said.

guy smiling

Rhodes served as the point person for the event and spent the day managing media relations and coordinating interviews. “Multnomah is committed to serving the city of Portland,” she said. “This partnership with Portland Police is an example of our close friendship with local law enforcement. Because of their time at MU today, our campus will be one of the safest in the NW — they’ll know it like the back of their hand.”

You’re Invited to MU’s Free Student Recital and Choir Concert Next Tuesday, April 29

piano pictureHey, all!

My name is Peter Wilson, and I'm a music major here at Multnomah. Next Tuesday, April 29, you'll have an awesome opportunity to see what MU's music department has to offer by attending our free Spring Student Recital.

The Ambassador Choir will be presenting a concert in conjunction with the recital, and there will also be a few surprises, including piano recital pieces featuring some of Bach's compositions and vocal presentations from some very talented individuals!

This will be an awesome night filled with community, excitement, art, and great food after the concert. This is something you don't want to miss. I know that a lot of work has been put into this event by everyone in the music department to make it a night to remember, so come join us!

When: Tuesday, April 29, at 7 p.m.

Where: Bradley Hall, Room 1

This is a free event

If you would like more information about the Ambassador Choir or this event, call the Music Ministry Department at 503-251-5390 or email choir@multnomah.edu.

Interested in MU's music major? Check out our music ministry page.

Spring Thaw Unites, Inspires 800 Students

Spring Thaw is over. The event that took months of dreaming, planning and building successfully transformed one weekend into 44 hours full of unforgettable games, teaching, laughter, worship, Disney characters and donuts (check out the Spring Thaw photo album!).

Out of the 825 high school students and youth leaders at the event, seven took time to share their Spring Thaw experiences.

springthaw1'It was an encouragement'

Emma Barnett and Amanda Foreman, freshman from Redemptive Church in Duval, Washington, were Spring Thaw first-timers. "I think the event is a great idea," said Barnett "Everyone did a great job organizing everything. And I loved the shows and activities."

Barnett and Foreman agreed that their favorite activity was Library Laser Tag, where they tip-toed, slunk and ran through the darkened MU library with laser guns rented from a local party store. But a theology seminar led by seminary professor Dr. Val Clemen left a deeper impression. Both girls were struck by Clemen's life story, which heavily emphasized the importance of forgiveness. "It was an encouragement," said Foreman.

Barnett agreed. "Her story made me want to love people more,"  she said. "Especially my enemies — because they have it worse."

springthaw2'A lot of growth and bonding'

Millie Dugger, another Spring Thaw first-timer, has been a youth leader at Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon, for six years. As a married woman who works full-time, Dugger has limited time with her youth group each week. Spring Thaw was a refreshing break from normal routine.

"What meant the most to me was having 44 hours of uninterrupted time with my girls," she said. "MU provided and planned everything, so we didn't have to cook and clean up! I saw God reveal opportunities to pray with the girls and be more present since I didn't have an agenda. A lot of growth and bonding happened because of it."

'God's love is always there'

One of the girls in Dugger's youth group, Ashley Smith, also valued the freedom the retreat gave her to build relationships with others. Smith said she expected to meet new people and play lots of fun games during the weekend. But what she didn't expect were the teachings about love and peace that speaker Chap Clark shared with students. "Chap was very motivational and inspirational," she said. "He talked about love in a way we could understand."

The message of hope was just what the senior needed."Society is so caught up with fitting in, but I learned that God's love is always there and that you can find peace," she said. "I've been going through some stressful times, and it was good to be reminded of that."

Smith encourages all high school students to attend the event if they can. "When you have the chance to go, just go for it, and don't be nervous" she said. "I didn't see anyone being left out. Spring Thaw will give you the opportunity to be stronger and make more friends in the Christian community."

springthaw4'It was intense'

Tim Blank, a senior from Abundant Life Church in Sandy, Oregon, also appreciated the sense of community he felt during the weekend. "It was intense," he said. "I learned about how important it is to respect people and to actually act like we're brothers and sisters in Christ."

And although Blank loved the activities and teaching, he was quick to credit the volunteers that made the retreat happen. "I think it's great that MU can open up and do this for us," he said. "It says a lot about the school. I'm glad I got to be here."

Jason Chess, Blank's youth leader, felt the same way. "This is such a great event that our high schoolers can get excited for," he said. "And it's a safe place for them."

springthaw3'God has a place for me'

Eric Irvin, from Mid Valley Community Church in Woodburn, Oregon, thought the weekend was transformative.

"I definitely have different feelings toward other people now," he said. "I'm more accepting because I know God made them in his image."

Irvin especially liked the worship sessions. "Singing songs is one of my favorite ways to connect with God," he said. "This is a place to get away from the worldly things and praise him. MU is not only open and welcoming — God's presence is here too."

As the sophomore prepared for the drive home with his youth group, he felt encouraged. "I've had a lot of struggles lately," he said. "But I learned that God has a place for me in this world."

Spring Thaw is an annual event put on my MU's youth ministry program.