By Brandon Blessman
One of the moments this semester in which God worked in ways we would never have expected took place at our first ever, on-campus Night of Worship. Our hope for the evening was that the Spirit of God would work and move in the hearts of our students during a time of worship through singing, prayer and Scripture readings on campus at UNI. The fact that an evening like this took place on campus made all the difference as no one could deny the evangelistic nature of our gathering. As we stood in a circle without any stage, there was a shared excitement that what was happening was taking place on secular turf!
The time we spent together that evening was intentional, as our desire for the night was not that we would come together just to sing our favorite songs and leave, but that God would move in such a way that every student would leave knowing two things. One, our worship has direction and purpose. As we walked through a four-part liturgy that night, we experienced worship through the themes of Adoration, Thanksgiving, Anticipation, and Commission. This order to the gathering reoriented our hearts to the reality of what is really going on when we gather together to sing. Simply put, God is working to mold and shape us into a certain kind of people that look more and more like Jesus. And two, proper worship is always fully known and expressed within community. As we stood in a circle, purposefully setting up the room in order that we might look into the eyes of our brothers and sisters, we were distinctly reminded that worship is never done in a personal vacuum, but is always done in the community of God’s family.
The following is one of the stories we’re celebrating at Salt Cedar Falls this semester. Alicia, a Salt student, shared this story as part of her baptism testimony at Candeo:
My name is Alicia and this is my testimony of how I came to know Jesus and how he saved my life.
I had a very traumatic childhood. I was exposed us to drugs, alcohol, sex, and domestic violence at a young age. I experienced a lot of neglect and abuse and was often abandoned. My mother would leave without much warning and be gone for days or weeks at a time. This meant that at a very young age, I was having to learn how to cook and take care of myself. In my childhood, I can remember a lot of arguing and fighting in our house that made police involvement necessary. I began to clearly see sin and the only thing I knew about God is that He is real and He loves me very much.
When I was 6 or 7, my mom told my sisters, my brother, and I that we would be moving in with a family member until she came back. My first response was fear as much of the neglect and abuse I had experienced had come from this place. I began to believe that I would be punished for anything I did wrong. I can remember comforting my siblings day by day in the middle of all that was happening. I really did love my uncle we were living with. He took us under his wing, cared for us, and made sacrifices. He became our caretaker – taking us to the doctor, feeding us, taking us on vacations, and making us laugh. Although I loved him, I also had a lot of bitterness inside of me. During this time, I began to pray to God every single night for help. I prayed that we could live at school and never have to come home. I always had this weird hope that things would start to become better, that we would be stronger and healthier together. Despite the hope I had, I had become someone who was angry, had low self-esteem, and trust issues. I started to hurt those around me that I loved – including my siblings who I’d spent so much time caring for.
Around 12 or 13, my siblings and I were split up. I moved around from house to house until I was placed in foster care at 14 years old. From here, I started to notice my life changing for the better. I attended a baptist church where I learned about who Jesus was. I loved learning and hearing the Gospel. It brought me hope, joy, and comfort. I learned that Jesus loved me very much and is always with me. I was still confused at why I still experienced pain and questioned how I would ever get over my past. I was also living in a lot of sin – I was constantly in sexually immoral relationships, sneaking out of the homes I lived in, smoking, and fighting. At age 17, I entered the independent living program at. I learned how to pay rent, grocery shop, and budget.
At 20 years old I began to finally feel a deeply-rooted peace inside of me. I found a job and a place of my own. I started college and began taking psychology classes. I went in knowing nothing about psychology and was opened up to so many concepts on how we learn and behave and can change from abuse. It began to click — this could happen for me with Jesus. I can learn new things, recover, and be fully loved by Jesus Christ. I had heard the gospel several times and I was ready to live my life for Christ. I recognized that I needed Jesus and I prayed aloud to Him admitting my need and asking Him into my heart. I had often felt remorseful for my sin, but I wanted to be forgiven for my sin and repent.
Over time, I have seen how God has carried me through my entire past. I can see the purpose in all of it and how it has shaped me into the person I am today. I still struggle daily and am walking through psychological disorders that make it hard to love and trust others. I know that a life lived in Christ is better than anything I could do apart from Him. I am learning how to forgive because I am forgiven. I am learning how to love, because I am loved. Today I’m being baptized to symbolize outwardly what Jesus has done for me inwardly. I am dead to my sin and alive in Christ, who died for me so that I might have life through him.
By Jenny Calsyn
We had our Fall Retreat during the second weekend of October. As a staff, we prayed for 50 students. God really challenged our hearts when we were a week out and had 35. He helped us to remember that the number of students we have isn’t up to us – it’s about how many God gives us to steward. It was a reminder that it’s not about numbers. It was sweet to have Him do that in our hearts but then get to see 50 students join us! It was so fun to see students buy into community whether it was around the bonfire, during worship, dancing together or in their connection groups.
Over the retreat, we had our pastor Ryan Hill speak. He talked about how as a society we have so much pride and are constantly trying to build up our ego. It was awesome to see how God worked in the students to remind them (and us) of how broken we are and how much we need the gospel. Students had the opportunity to bond with their connection groups and with students from the other schools in Cedar Rapids.
We are so excited to see what the retreat has done in the students that came throughout this next month. It is usually a turning point in many of their lives each semester.
As we’ve been reaching out to a new campus, God has been bringing in students from all kinds of backgrounds and situations.
One student who’s been connecting with Salt is Jake. Jake has grown up around Christianity and knows a lot of the right answers, but those answers haven’t taken hold of his life and actions until more recently. He’s particularly struggled with relationships – both relating to women with flirting, and coming off too intensely with women he’s interested in.
This struggle has cost him some leadership opportunities with past summer camps and church groups.
Jake came to his connection group leader after campus safety officers came to his dorm door in response to complaints from a girl who felt like Jake was following her.
He was shocked and confused, but God used this as a wakeup call for him to pursue real accountability, discipleship, and community. Jake and his connection group leader met with me, and we challenged him to start looking at what he was trying to get out of relationships – what was the root?
This led to a great conversation about finding real satisfaction in Christ and letting our community help us live out our identities in wisdom. Later that week Jake was already asking his connection group leader and me to help him process what to do about a girl he had started talking to. We got to challenge him to fight for radical growth, leading himself in these areas where he knows he needs growth before trying to lead another person.
Praise God He’s getting ahold of Jake’s life and moving the truth Jake knows from his head to actions.
By Dakota Jackson
This month God did some incredible things through our ministry here at The Salt Company Des Moines. At the start of the month we had our annual fall retreat. We saw over 50 students give up their weekends in order to come out and learn more about the incredible Fatherhood of God and to grow deeper in community with one another! We had the honor and privilege of having Pastor Rechab Gray lead us during the retreat going through Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal son. Rechab gave some incredibly inspiring and convicting messages that resulted in some great conversations from the students and their small groups. We had many students express to us how much of an impact the messages had on them and the weekend as a whole.
One of the most encouraging things coming out of the weekend was the fact that many of the groups are now much closer than they were at the beginning of the year. The retreat was a great time for some people to get vitally connected to a group that they may not have attended since the beginning of the semester. Much of this community building came from the small group times, led by our fantastic leaders, but I would say most of it came from the time that our students got to spend together, making some really strong memories and bonds. There were dodgeball and volleyball tournaments happening, late night glow in the dark capture the flag, and some great spontaneous games that broke out during free time. These are things that really build relationships when paired with the authenticity that comes from being at a fall retreat together.
One of the biggest ways that God showed his grace to us during this fall retreat weekend was to be able to celebrate one of our students coming to know and accept Christ as his Lord and savior! This student’s name is Austin and he has been involved with Salt DSM for a while but expressed that he always came to church because it was something that he could do to fit in and make connections in his circle of friends. The gospel and the amazing love that God has for us as his children became so evident to him while we were on our Fall Retreat that he gave his life to Christ and is already showing the fruit of now being connected to the true vine.
Austin is now planning on being baptized this upcoming month and will get to celebrate with Salt Company through this public declaration of his faith and trust in Jesus. We are so encouraged by the work that God is doing in his heart and in his life that we cannot wait to see him take the step of obedience in being baptized. There is no greater joy in all of ministry than seeing somebody who was dead in their sin understand the life and love that is theirs in Christ. We are praising God for his incredible work in Austin!
By Hailey Koerperich,
Move-In Week is a week full of emotions. First are the parents, many of which who are sending their sons or daughters off for the beginning of their college careers, and then either in tow or running full-speed ahead are their children. Though hardly children anymore, these adults are moving into their new homes for the next nine months, and for some, the next four years as they begin life as a Panther. Students, amidst a sea of firsts, are learning to do their first loads of laundry, sharing an 8×8 dorm room for the first time, and preparing for life away from mom and dad for the first time in their entire lives. Salt Company leaders can often think back to those days and remember with great detail what some of those first few days looked like. Some knew before coming to college that they planned to be involved with a college ministry, some might have considered joining, and others had zero intentions of being involved with a ministry, much less considered following Jesus.
To potentially change the trajectory of a freshman’s four years of college and for some, the rest of their lives, Salt Cedar Falls took part in their first Mission Trip to Campus. The purpose was to cast wide nets and meet as many freshmen on campus as possible during Move-In Week. For those who could take part, they were covered in prayer and then sent out to the campus each day. Some spent time carrying furniture into dorm rooms, some played sand volleyball or basketball for hours, and a couple students even passed out over 400 Bomb Pops in an effort to meet students and hand them a Kickoff Card inviting them to either the Freshman Kickoff or the Fall Kickoff. It was an effective week as many friendships began to form and it ended with the reminder that our mission trip to campus is not to end after the first week, but to continue throughout the year and the rest of their lives as they live on mission for Jesus Christ.
It is an immense privilege and blessing to be able to kickoff Salt Company, both with the Freshman Kickoff and the Fall Kickoff, on the public campus of the University of Northern Iowa. Students gather on Lawther Field and hear the Gospel presented boldly and with incredible clarity. The Freshman Kickoff saw over 300 students gather on Sunday night for free pizza and a chance to connect with other freshmen students. Throughout that night, they get to hear stories from sophomore students who got connected with Salt Company in the previous year. One of those students was Nathan Borg, a sophomore. Nathan joined Salt Company after becoming friends with other students who attended Salt last year. He accepted Christ after Christmas of 2016 and saw Christ begin to radically change his life through the community he had found at Salt. Nathan is currently a first-year student leader and at the Freshman Kickoff, he sat on stage and told his story.
Student leaders attend kickoff with a sign informing students of when their Connection Groups will be held and where they’re hosting. Like other student leaders, Nathan, who had yet to attend a Salt Kickoff, arrived with his sign in hand to hopefully connect with students and with hopes of beginning to form a life-giving community centered around Christ with which he found last year. The Kickoff saw over 600 students come together to worship and hear the narrative of David and Goliath from Jordan Prihoda, Salt Company Co-Director. Following a powerful closing worship set, students had a chance to get connected in a Connection Group with one or two student leaders. Over 80% of students attending chose to get connected. Each week, these students will pile into the Union, in dorm rooms, or in apartments to study Scripture ahead of the Thursday night gathering and to imitate the kind of discipleship Jesus and the apostles modeled of doing life together. With great anticipation, the Salt Company looks forward to all that an extraordinary God might do through the lives of an ordinary staff, ordinary students leaders, and ordinary students this year!
By Jensen Winter
Summer is a unique time for ministry and the slower pace allows extra space for outreach events. These outreach events are a great way to take advantage of a smaller and more intimate group, which is not always the case in the fall or the spring semesters. One event, Slip and Slide Kickball, saw 40-50 students attend for an afternoon and evening of fun, fellowship, and community. It was a beautiful day outside and a perfect opportunity to deepen friendships and begin new ones.
A few Salt students were in charge of the event and they really made it awesome. The students who arrived early set up the pools and the tarps and helped the Hager’s, a family that attends Candeo, set up a few more yard games. The Hager’s are always eager to offer up spaces in and around their house to host students. Students arrived around four and the fun really began.
The afternoon ran smoothly with several games of kickball that lasted nearly a couple hours. Following that, students enjoyed a grill out with more kickball and other games after. Cody Cline, Candeo pastor, attended the later part of the event with his family. It was a sweet time for people to grab some time with Cody and to love on their kiddos. To end the night, several students stuck around for a campfire.
Though the summer pace is certainly sweet and unique, the fall is always an exciting time to look forward to. In just a few short weeks, many of the students who attended the Slip and Slide Kickball event will attend either the Leaders Retreat or the Fall Kickoff as Salt Company heads closer to being in full swing!
By Dakota Jackson
By Hailey Koerperich, Freshman Women’s Ministry Leader
At 10:02 every day, phone alarms are going off throughout the Candeo Church building. Luke 10:2 declares that “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” and that earnest prayers to the Lord of the harvest should be for laborers to send out into his harvest. One prayer that the Salt Company staff prayed all year was that God would raise up student leaders for the harvest on the University of Northern Iowa campus. In faith, the prayer was that God would increase the student leadership team from its 68 current leaders to over 100 leaders. Reaching that goal would mean an expansion of the leadership team by almost 45%.
The leadership process for new leaders involves an application and an interview conducted by members of the Salt Company staff. These interviews serve as an excellent opportunity to shepherd students and to celebrate evidences of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the last year, but also throughout their entire lives. This process, from start to finish, takes nearly a month. After 75 interviews and losing other leaders to graduation, internships, and student teaching, the final number of new leaders was 100.
At the final leaders meeting of the 2016-2017 school year on April 30, leaders sat in a room full of current leaders as well as new leaders for the 2017-2018 school year. Many of the veteran leaders could remember when a room that full was the entire Salt Company. In just four short years, a room that full is now just the leadership team. What a faithful and gracious God! To Him be the glory for the work He is doing in the Cedar Valley and beyond.
Why should busy ministry staff take time away from ministry to attend the retreat??? Check out the retreat video below for a few good reasons!
Pastors and ministry staff can register at https://t.co/dwx4fNSksM before April 5.
How to host or attend PRISCILLA SHIRER SIMULCAST, A global Bible-teaching event with Priscilla Shirer, April 28, 2018, 8:00am Central - LifeWay https://t.co/Hs8SXZIm7e
Not just to the people over there, but sometimes the nudge we need is toward people most near to us. “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 4:20