by Ian Thomas

Hi Everyone!

   For those of you who may not know me, my name is Yann. I'm one of the five college students staying in California with Geraud for the CCO Encounter Fresno summer program. He has asked me to write this update on the project to share with all of you! To provide some context, the goal of Encounter Fresno is to provide the involved students with intentional space to explore topics of Gospel, Church, and Vision. We engage with these topics by participating in intentional community, hearing from speakers, doing Bible studies together, and attending a local church. This update encompasses our experiences during the first part of our summer with another update coming at the end of our Encounter Fresno experience. For this first update I'm going to try and group everything into three categories: what we have learned so far, the things we've experienced together as a team, and the hopes we have for the final few weeks of the program. 

What We Have Learned

   The project is structured such that each week we explore a different subject to inform our perspectives of Gospel, Church, and Vision. The week's lectures and studies are all based on the week's theme. So far, we have studied Identity, Hospitality & Justice, and Church Involvement. This week we will focus on Vocation. We spent the first-week considering Identity and preparing for what was to come in the project, both personally and collectively. Individually we spent time examining our current relationships with Christianity by asking questions such as "Who is your God?" and "What is the Gospel to you?" Together, students began to lay the groundwork for the community we would engage in by sharing testimonies and explaining the contexts we each come from. In the project's second week students were introduced to the intimate relationship between Hospitality and Justice. We meditated on what it means for Hospitality and Justice to be deliberate, inconvenient, difficult, vulnerable, and a lifestyle. Together we reflected on how these two topics are both grounded in an outward focus that places the needs of others before our own. Last week we studied Biblical origins of the church, and what the Bible suggests about Church Involvement. During our time with leaders at local Fresno churches, the team expressed some frustration with parts of the Western church that we observe today. We spent time contemplating our vision for the church of the future and practically considering our own roles in redeeming the Western church.  

What We Have Experienced

   During these last three weeks, our team has shared a number of exciting and memorable experiences. The very first Saturday we spent at the beach in Santa Cruz! We avoided any shark attacks and--aside from some light sunburn--returned to Fresno unscathed and feeling refreshed. The next weekend the team took a road trip to Yosemite National Park! Geraud led us all on a few beautiful hikes and we basked in the beauty of Creation. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that there have also been countless late-night trips to In-N-Out Burger and Sonic (Shakes half-off after 8 pm! How could we not??). All these adventures have been fun of course, but they allude to something that is developing among these 5 college students, something far more sacred than late-night half-price shakes. That is the community that is forming between us all. These 3 weeks have shown me the beauty of intentionality, and the closeness that results from vulnerability. The Pink House (our impregnable headquarters) has become a place of safety for us all, where we know we can find someone to laugh or cry (or clean) with. It's amazing how closely connected I feel with the rest of the students here. This experience continues to convince me that we are meant to pursue and experience such an intentional community. 

The Hopes We Have

   Just last evening some of the team was sitting together in the Pink House, realizing that we only have 2 more weeks together before our project comes to a close. It's a sobering thought! Everyone there expressed sadness that we don't have more time together. It was also a special moment to reflect on our experiences so far and to voice some of our goals for what remains of the project. The nature of the questions we ask and the topics we study is that they are challenging and complicated. But we recognized that there is room to be more intentional in personally challenging each other. Beyond our structured study sessions and debrief meetings, most of us haven't pursued each other as much as we can, to reflect on what we've learned. One of our goals for these last few weeks is to press into one another even more intentionally. Last night was an excellent reminder to us all that our goal isn't to study these topics of Gospel, Church, and Vision in this setting in order to leave behind all that we've learned. These last two weeks we each hope to more deeply consider the applicability of what we're learning and experiencing to our lives outside of the Pink House. 

   That's it for now, folks! We greatly appreciate everyone's support and are so thankful for the opportunity to be here together in Fresno for part of the summer. Be on the lookout for more updates! The next update will detail the completion of our experience as some of us are still processing our experiences.

Signing off, this is Yann.