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!
by Claire Dodson
When I stepped into the UTK Wesley Foundation my freshman year, I had no idea the building would be a landmark of my time at UT. A stage where I would make some of my best memories, where I would grow intellectually and spiritually and where I would build a community of people that loved and supported me just as I did them.
When it came time last spring for me to choose where to live, Wesley seemed the natural choice. After an application and interview process, I joined seven of my best friends in the downstairs apartments.
During my freshman year, I lived in South Carrick; my sophomore year, I moved off campus to The Orchard — a condo off of Cherokee Trail where I lived with three other girls. So far, Wesley has been entirely different from both of these experiences. In Carrick, my roommate and suitemates were awesome, but we were largely isolated from our floor and hall; I met few of the other residents.
In the Orchard, we were even more isolated and never actually met any neighbors, although we had a high degree of freedom. Both years, I was involved at Wesley very heavily, and I viewed it as a second home, a place where I could escape the stress of school and feel like I belonged in the middle of a large campus.
Now, my home and my second home have been combined. The experience has been paradoxical. On one hand, I am constantly surrounded by a vibrant community that encourages me. On the other, I do not always have a place to be alone. It's a tradeoff I have learned to accept and appreciate, and it has forced me to purposefully plan times to be alone, go to the gym and get away for short periods of time.
Wesley operates much like a home, and the residential community is like a family. We have chores and guidelines that encourage us to be role models for the Wesley community. We cannot have alcohol or pets in the building, and we come to the group to discuss issues and problems that arise, whether that's noise or too many dirty dishes.
At Wesley, along with other types of campus ministry housing, there is a higher degree of accountability and usually a lower cost for rent than UT student housing.
Accountability can be a good thing.
This semester, I have learned that in communities, you have to think of the group to a certain degree. Your choices do not just affect yourself. If I listen to music or watch TV really loudly in my room, I have not kept a stranger in my hall awake at night and received a warning. Rather, I have kept Alex from focusing on studying for his organic chemistry test or interrupted Christie's phone call with her family in Memphis. My actions have consequences that are personal instead of vague.
There are other perks – the close proximity to classes (I can roll out of bed at 7:50 for my 8 a.m. in HSS), the short walk to the Strip, the parking where I never have to worry about finding a space.
Mostly though, living in religious housing forces you to be self-aware and considerate. You get to experience the fun and satisfaction of an awesomely-supportive community all the time, and it is a community that is sometimes challenging and difficult.
In the end, though, it is a place to be fed and to serve, a place to study and to sleep, a place to know and be known.
Claire Dodson is a junior in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content appeared as a part of the fall 2013 housing guide.