Wesley Foundation Witness, by Stephen Burkhardt
I walked slowly from where I had parked a few blocks away. struggling with every step. My physical strength was intact, maybe even at a peak. But my heart was heavy. I was used to being the problem solver and helping others. Now I found myself in need of asking for help, and I didn't quite know what to do. I knew the stand I had taken was honorable, and the only thing I could do without losing who I am. And I knew if I carried the fight any further to the overseas corporate office, I could win. But the pending buyout might collapse in the turmoil, causing the factory to close and 88 jobs to be lost. As a part time local pastor, I had preached "Trust in the Lord" the Sunday before. Now my factory job was gone...and I would actually have to practice what I preach. Kristen was in her first year at UT and was already tied in to the Wesley Foundation. Her praise reports on the phone from her first day on campus, now led me up the front steps of the Foundation. I had called ahead and to my surprise, the director sprung open the front door and met me as I topped the steps. He had a bow tie and sneakers, his smile was broad, and his eyes glossed with the tears he was holding back for me. He offered me his hand and I have no idea how that became a hug. But at that moment, pressure vented from my Spirit like a blown pressure relief valve. I knew Kristen would be tempted to cut back her classes or even drop out a semester to help. I had not told her what was going on yet. I needed an ally to help break the word to Kristen, be there to process with her and care for her, and prevent an over reaction. I found at the UT Wesley Foundation, a loving caring "church" that had priority to nurture, care for, and offer an unconditional safe place for the college students...and at this time, for a Spiritually wounded parent, trying to sort out "what's next" in a tough financial situation... I spent some months working all kinds of jobs from landscaping/carpentry to consulting stints to pay the bills, until I landed a way better job. The Nurse Hero picked up some extra shifts standing-in-the-gap. And through the process I will admit there were many nights I worried about many things and wrestled with the Lord. But I knew that even though my girl was away from home, she had a loving home at the Wesley Foundation... and was surrounded by a big 'family'... By the time she finished undergrad at UT, Kristen was positioned to pursue her calling, was even more confident and courageous then when she entered and could lay block better then her old man from what she had learned building homes on construction missions with the Wesley Foundation. As youth are preparing to go to college, some get tired of hearing from the old Preachee about checking out the "Wesley Foundation". It isn't because I am afraid of losing Methodist Church Members, or because I am concerned about putting on a show about "looking Methodist". And I know some of the faces have changed at Wesley Foundations from the time of this story. But one thing hasn't changed. On the college campus, the Wesley Foundation is a caring, loving home away from home. I want that for every college student! I really do!