Hannah Ling Thoughts and writings from Pittsburgh

Welcome Week!

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Hi all, Thanks to everyone who has been faithful in keeping up with me and reading these and writing to me! As some of you may have heard, my first two weeks was difficult as I struggled with homesickness, tiredness(with our schedule of sleeping at 12/12:30 and waking up at 6:45 every day), and my poor character/laziness/relational conflict. It was also hard to adjust to being in a new place where I didn’t know anything and new team(that was also trying to get to know each other).

However, since then, things have gotten a lot better and I don’t feel homesick or so tired every day anymore! I’m able to say that I really like it here and I’m really glad I came out. We just finished our Welcome/Orientation Week(the week when its just freshmen on campus doing orientation activities) and the first two weeks of classes.

Our team is so much fun and I love hanging out with them all! We have a lot of fun at all our times together just telling stories, listening to Bon Jin do impressions of people and laughing.

There was so much I got to experience and I’ll try to capture it all here:

Welcome Week in general was a one-of-a-kind experience. We started with move-in day on Saturday where we handed out water bottles and just hung out playing frisbee and meeting new people. Every day the CPIs (and Morgan, a 2016 grad who just moved out here to join us) would do planning, logistics, different work, and then go on campus for more low-key stuff like playing frisbee, volleyball, and board games. In the evenings, the working staff would come and we had different events like ultimate frisbee, shaved snow, s’mores and campfire, game night.

We met a LOT of people! People here were really open during orientation week, really different than Berkeley! We tabled on Thursday and Friday and it was actually the craziest tabling experience I’ve ever had. In Berkeley, usually you table and call out to people while they walk past you and ignore you for hours on end. You’re lucky if even one or two people stop. Here, as soon as we set up the table, a lot of students came up to us and asked what we had going on, talked to us, and got to know us. Many students were looking for a church/Christian group, but there were a lot of non-Christian students who were just bored/hanging out and down to just talk. The Pittsburgh weather took a break for this week and we actually had California-like, warm, sunny, breezy weather, and it was a perfect environment to just chill by our table and talk.

One thing that’s cool about CMU is that the campus is so small. So after meeting a student for the first time, it was normal to see them and talk to them every day after that. I liked that because if you wanted to follow up on something you talked about, or forgot to get someone’s number/social media, or meet up with someone for lunch, you could just wait for the next time you saw them, unlike Berkeley where you might never see them again.

I got to experience the church in action! Our team has 13 people, and we were planning to put on New Student Welcome Night for 200 people on Saturday. That is a ton of work from driving supplies, prepping food, grilling meat, setting up A frames, setting up the food stations to serve 200 people, not to mention even talking to the students/engaging and getting to know them. We were originally slated to have a small mission team from our Santa Barbara church come, but a virus went around that entire church and they had to cancel. We felt really small heading into the week, like “oh man…how are we going to do this?” Angell sent out an email asking for prayers, and we got the awesome news on Wednesday that the Chicago team(consisting of 12 CPIs and the leads, Ray/Sieun and fam) were going to come and join us–the next day! I was really excited, I thought I wouldn’t see them again for almost a year after training! Also, Pastor Will and Esther, the East Coast leads for our church, were coming!

We literally felt like in The Two Towers at Helm’s Deep when the Riders of Rohan showed up at the eleventh hour and saved the day! It was so crazy that at a day’s notice, they were willing to drive nine hours from Chicago to Pittsburgh just to help us do outreach and put on our welcome night! I’ve heard of things like this happening, this is how the church is supposed to work, but it was different to actually experience! We also got the Irvine Church mission team on loan from our University of Pittsburgh team, and for the next couple days, I got to experience all three teams laboring alongside each other, “of one mind and one spirit, striving side by side” as Phillipians 1 says. Even though we barely knew each other(I thought one of the Irvine guys was a CMU freshman), I felt like we were truly one team. One cool experience was to see our church’s value of servanthood firsthand, as Pastor Will and Esther cleaned, scooped rice, and wiped bins right alongside us.

Welcome night itself was pretty awesome! We almost filled the room and had 80something newcomers come and check out our group. The Chicago team did the Race of a Lifetime skit. The frosh picture for CMU was right after Welcome Night, so we cut our song and some of our activities to have a 40 minute program, and had dinner outside on the picnic blankets and played volleyball/frisbee. It was evening, the sun was setting, and the weather was perfect! It was such a different experience from Welcome Night at Berkeley, which is more chaotic with way more people. It was so fun and it felt like we were just hanging out outside. Afterward, we had a team time, went to Grand View Overlook, and cleaned.

I got to experience the joy of giving my all and working hard! Saturday was crazy–outreach, tabling, then loading, setting up–a lot of hard work. Right before the event, we went out to do last-minute flyering. By then I was actually already pretty tired, and I remember going out there to talk to more students and inviting them to come thinking: “this is wild, I can’t believe I’m doing this right now!” And Welcome Night hadn’t even started yet! Somehow I survived Welcome Night, and then the momenteous task of cleaning and organizing all the food and equipment we had used throughout the day. I was so tired at the end, but it was so joyful! It was awesome to experience just giving my all and being spent for a worthy cause.

Our Sunday Service was also really fun, with the mission teams we had over 100 people and it felt pretty poppin’. There were quite a few students looking for a church who came to check us out!

This past two weeks, things have been a lot slower and more toned down. Students here actually get pretty stressed the first week, so outreach slowed down a lot and our kickoff event last Friday was a much cozier group. Last night, we had boba and board games and it was a fun time of getting to know students!

We’ve been doing things like tabling, tea for thought, and more low-key outreach. Olivia, Jana, and I are taking classes–I’m taking CS 15112, the equivalent of CS61A at Berkeley(again). It gives us things like campus wifi, room access, and gym access as well!

For me, it feels weird being on campus and being a student at a campus that’s not my home campus. Sometimes when I walk around campus, I get an urge to yell “I’M A FAKE STUDENT! THIS IS CRAZY!” it’s hard to remember that I don’t need to treat this like school at Berkeley–and it is a bit lonelier being at school without DL and the familiarity of our big community, even knowing Jana and Olivia and the students that we’ve recently met.

One recent thing I’ve been learning is just resting in Jesus’s grace again, especially with DT in Romans. I love Romans 5:1-11–it’s easy for me to feel, especially during the day, that I’m not doing enough–people are paying for me to be here, but I’m not doing outreach or meeting people, I’m just catching up on life or reading or doing homework for a class that doesn’t even matter. I’m really learning to just rest in Jesus’s grace and not frantically worry about doing “enough” or seeming lame–when I’m putting pressure on myself to meet people, just seeing them as ways to make myself feel validated, I can’t actually love them and they don’t actually benefit from that. What God wants is not good works or more devotion or more service, but for me to just be personally relating with him in every moment.

Please pray for our church! I feel really burdened and challenged for God’s vision of the Acts 2 Church. I thought how church plants worked was we would show up, and the Acts 2 church would just kind of happen, but seeing how the 13 of us have been tasked to implanting this church to our sophomores/juniors/seniors, as well as freshmen, is a momentous task. It doesn’t just happen, the devotion and love and community and sacrifice and service we’ve experienced have to be transmitted somehow, or they won’t get it. Making that a new norm in their lives is on me, and the rest of the team here, and it just seems so far out and I feel so inadequate for that task. Man, if/when the church here grows into that community, and eventually becomes an Acts 2 church or even a sending church, that will be so awesome!

Miss you all! Hannah