What’s RUF Without the “U” & the “F”?

Naomi Slater, RUF Student at James Madison University  |  April 06, 2020

What’s RUF when the "U" and the "F" of that are drastically changed? In just a matter of  weeks normal has been stripped away from every person in the nation, and countless others across the globe as well. As campuses across the country have closed and moved to online classes, the university and fellowship part of RUF have been changed dramatically. 

I am the daughter of the RUF Campus Minister at James Madison University (the school I attend), I have a brother who is the RUF-International intern at Georgia Tech, and I have a sister who is the RUF intern at Virginia Tech. Over the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed each of them wrestle with what this pandemic means for the ministry at each of their campuses and the question that comes with campus ministry during these times: What does campus ministry look like when “campus” is taken out of the equation? It looks like still showing up and meeting students where they are in the only way currently possible: Virtual RUF.  

Virtual RUF looks like Facetime one-on-one meetings, Zoom calls for RUF large group and small groups, texting prayer requests to your RUF intern, finding innovative ways to stay connected with students, and creating a fun environment to bring students together again. Last Wednesday, I sat next to my dad as we were about to start the RUF large group Zoom call. Minutes before we were scrambling to make sure we had everything he needed for his sermon and we prayed together that the Lord would speak through him. We prayed for a sweet time reuniting with our RUF people over this group call. As we joined the call where many of our friends were already engaged and interacting, I looked up and saw my Dad’s face light up with joy. It meant so much to him to see the faces of his students, even if there was a computer screen separating them. After large group had ended, we couldn’t stop beaming and talking about how thankful we were for technology that connects us even in times of separation. We were not meant to do life or ministry alone. The Lord daily calls us into fellowship with Himself and with those He’s placed around us. My hope and prayer is that we would not be spiritually distant in this time of physical distance, but rather we would draw near to the Healer and Perfecter of all things.

Everyone of us is grieving something in this pandemic. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one after falling ill from the virus, some are grieving a dream wedding they’ve invested months of time and effort into, some are grieving the job that gave them financial security, some are grieving the opportunity to go to their senior prom. Personally, I grieve the last few months of my first year in college and all that comes with it: the time with my roommate crying, laughing, and dancing in our dorm; the experiences and knowledge gained from my education classes; and the memories that could’ve been made with my RUF family. I grieve the loss of normalcy.

Uncertainty and unknowns are all around us, and it’s absolutely terrifying. We’re living in a time where everything is out of our control, and what we have to decide is what we’re going to do with the overwhelming sense of uncertainty that we’re all experiencing. Will we run and hide from the risk of being exposed as the weak and helpless beings that we are, or will we run to the Heavenly Father and bask in the hope He gives even in the midst of the uncontrollable depths of life? Let’s run toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and rest in His sovereignty and faithfulness. Let’s be reminded of His truths and promises by pursuing fellowship and community even if they look terrifyingly different right now. 

This is why we participate in Virtual RUF and why connecting virtually is so vital in times such as these - we need the body of Christ. Most importantly, we need to hear truth spoken into our hearts in a time when our hearts are aching for the depths of the Gospel and when the world is seemingly falling apart all around us. I encourage you to cling to the Lord right now - our Rock and our Redeemer. Cling to the family you found in RUF because they need you just as much as you need them. Don’t stop pursuing those around you, whether that means texting a friend to check in on them, or inviting a classmate to join your RUF large group Zoom call. It’s worth it, I promise.

I’ll close with the lyrics of I Will Praise Him Still - these words ring true today and everyday, so soak them in and preach them to yourself day in, and day out - I will praise Him still.

When the morning falls on the farthest hill

I will sing His name, I will praise Him still

When dark trials come and my heart is filled

With the weight of doubt, I will praise Him still

For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save

From the arms of death, from the deepest grave

And He gave us life in His perfect will

And by His good grace I will praise Him still