Gainesville Day 1
Okay, let me first say, ‘Wow!’ It was quite a day. I think I met and talked to more people today than I have for over years. Today was our first day in Gainesville, Florida and boy it was jam-packed full of so many good conversations and new people connecting to each other! It started at 7:30 with everyone eating breakfast in the hotel’s lobby. After breakfast, Shane had us pair up and practice sharing our stories with each other. The catch…it had to be under two minutes. After this, we had a zoom meeting with the advisor of the ministry to go over the schedule for our day. We learned that the organization ‘International Bridge Fellowship (IBF)’ connects international students together here at the University of Florida (UF). There are over 5,000 international students at UF! The advisors at IBF spent some time dreaming and fine-tuning details on what this organization would be like, and they officially began meeting last semester. So far, they’ve had success connecting with around 100 international students. After this zoom meeting, we headed to the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). This center was conveniently set right on campus, making it a short walk to where we went to set up our stations for the day. While there, we got to meet Tino and Anna. Tino was a grad student and Anna, a senior at UF. Both Tino and Anna were passionate about international students and quick to jump in with us for today’s activities.
The day began with us passing out flyers, as well surveying students who were willing to answer a few questions. To be frank, this was all a bit nerve-wracking for me! Thankfully, I got paired with other teammates! What a gift it is to partner together in sharing the Gospel. I think one of the coolest parts of today was seeing Jenna, one of the IBF leaders, connect with a group of six Korean students. All 6 students just arrived in America 3 days ago! Jenna so naturally engaged in light-hearted conversation. It was so encouraging to see how much Jenna was able to connect with the Korean culture and how much they were able to connect with ours!
After this we headed back to the BCM for lunch and of course… played a round of Gnip-Gnop, a table tennis game we love at camp. After this we went back out to another part of the campus continued passing out flyers/ surveying more students. During this time, Tino took me, and Landon to meet up with Mark, an international student Tino had built a goof friendship with. Mark is a relatively new believer who just began reading the Word of God. We had the chance to read John 1 together. It was such a great experience to read all-together and learn from the way Tino showed Mark how to study the Bible.
After this we headed to dinner at Adam’s rib. A recommended restaurant, that was incredible. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and debriefed the day. Everyone shared something that stuck out to them in the conversations we had with the students. It’s been a lot of newness and stepping outside my comfort zone, but it has been a great day!!! Day one down, we are ready for day two!
– Justin Dowdy