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Covenant Belonging


Covenant Belonging

RUF points students back to local church

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” —Proverbs 22:6

This is the wisdom we as parents invest in, cling to, hope for and count on as we raise our children, is it not? Every spiritual lesson, moral instruction and ethical situation we coach our covenant children through is based on this idea—that our faithful teaching hopefully means that the child will not depart from it.  The same is true for the High School seniors who are in our midst at Southwood and within High-Life Ministries. The families of each child, and we as the covenant community of Southwood, have worked to raise these soon-to-be graduates up in the faith of the Father. We have prayed for and with them, taught them the law of life as found in the Bible, protected and shepherded their hearts and encouraged them in their relationships with Jesus. However, for many of us, there remains a nagging anxiety about the new world of freedom and independence each student is about to step into. “Did we teach them enough?” we wonder. “Did we we model Godly living properly and are they going to make the same good decisions in their studies, their relationships and in their private lives that we made?” Left with great doubt and concern we cry out, “Father, oh Father, please provide them support, encouragement and direction as they depart from this community!”

Beloved of Southwood, the Lord has and is continuing to answer those cries and worries through the ministry of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). As the official college ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America, RUF is reformed in its teaching, focused on the student and fellowship as it’s aim and utilizes ordained campus ministers to encourage, train and bring up students. I can speak from personal experience when I say that RUF is one of the greatest contributions that our denomination has made to the current generation’s spiritual and theological well being. I firmly believe that RUF’s commitment to God’s word and the equipping of the saints will make it a relevant ministry to covenant children and their friends for a long, long time. 
However, there is something more about RUF that makes it very special.  RUF with all of it’s dynamic campus ministers and sharp philosophy of ministry does not promise to, nor can it, “fix” a college student and make sure that they “do all the right things.” RUF is special because it points students back to the church—the precise place that broken, messed up sinners, like the seniors we are about to send off, need to be. Beyond all that it can offer, RUF and its campus ministers know that they cannot replace the local church.  They understand that the means of grace (the preached word, sacraments and prayer) are fully realized in the church and are best administered in the church.

Consider the story of Jonathan Richardson.  A native of Dothan, AL and a member of First Presbyterian Dothan (PCA). Upon graduating from high school, Jonathan decided to attend college in Huntsville at UAH. Information about Jonathan’s college decision was communicated to one of his pastors on staff at First Presbyterian Dothan who knew that an RUF campus ministry existed at UAH.  This pastor called Brad Tubbesing, the RUF campus minister at UAH, and told him about Jonathan’s enrollment at UAH and his impending arrival in Huntsville.  Jonathan arrived just a few weeks later to Huntsville on a Friday and received a call that day from Brad Tubbesing.  Brad invited Jonathan to attend Southwood the following Sunday. Jonathan accepted his invitation and met Brad and his family at Southwood for the very first time, just two days after moving to Huntsville.

It wasn’t until early the next month that RUF began its formal programming on campus, but Brad’s ministry had already started by pulling Jonathan towards our local congregation.  Brad knew that no matter how much you as a parent or we as a covenant family may work to bring a child up in the Lord, the only thing that will sustain, keep and feed that child when they leave for college is the local church.  Not long after beginning at UAH, Jonathan developed a love and affinity for Southwood and decided, upon further encouragement from his new college friends, to join our local congregation in February of 2011.  Now a communing member in our midst, Jonathan is a covenant child that you can now encourage in the Lord. You can discuss spiritual and moral matters with him.  You can teach him about the law of the Lord and you can pray with and for him. Most importantly, you can worship with him, hear the word preached with him and partake of the Lord’s Supper with him as a part of our community. 

Join us on May 6 during both services as we celebrate Senior Sunday at Southwood. Praise God with us as we celebrate the hard work of our seniors in high school and as we reflect on all the ways that God has faithfully kept them.  On Senior Sunday we will welcome Rev. John Stone to preach.  Rev. Stone is the Assistant Coordinator for RUF and served on two college campuses doing ministry there for a combined 11 years.  We invite Rev. Stone as we look towards our seniors’ college careers, in hopes that they will be encouraged through RUF and that they will ultimately find a local church to call home.
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For more information about RUF, including how you might additionally support its ministry, visit www.ruf.org.