Summer is finally here, and the Gundersen family is delighted. The joyful exclamation “Summertime!” has echoed around the house for the past ten days ever since the evening I arrived home after completing my final course of 2011-2012. Summer will still be full of important priorities and projects, but it’s quite unlikely to compare with the whirlwind that’s been 2011-2012 (I may never escape thinking in semesters and school years). However, in God’s kindness, our lives are not just busy but full.
After a lengthy church search, we were so grateful to join the warm, loving, passionate body of believers at Fellowship Church which meets near our home in east Louisville. As a five-year-old church plant, our new church of 200 resounds with gospel truth, rich relationships, constant hospitality, creative ministries, and a wide open door to participate. Our church has embraced us, encouraged us, and supported us. We only pray that we might keep pace in serving alongside those who have already served us so well.
Naturally, the biggest event of our year was the long-awaited arrival of Ember, Isaiah, and Brooklyn last July. These beautiful Rwandans doubled our family (3 to 6) and quadrupled our children (1 to 4). With four children between the ages of four and six, we’re officially a large family. I could not begin to scratch the surface of the massive changes, steep challenges, remarkable moments, and rugged joys that have filled these months. I purposefully decided to blog less about this second adoption process, preferring to spend my time walking closely and privately with our family through the headwinds and fresh breezes the Lord has blown our way. The challenges have been stiff, and have often bent us to the ground. Yet while the clouds have come enough to drive us to our knees, the sun has shone enough to remind us that God hears. Each of the six members of our family has been transformed by the past year, in ways we could not have chosen and now would not trade. The seeds of joy have been planted deep, the grace of God falls softly each day, and we see new sprouts in due season as our beautiful children (and their parents) grow under his watchful care.
Student Life Ministry
Last summer I was asked to take on oversight of Boyce College’s Student Life department. I had previously been overseeing Student Life programs for all of Southern Seminary but was re-tasked to concentrate on the college students in Southern’s undergraduate school. Numerous other staff transitions at Boyce and throughout the seminary created an exciting and adventuresome atmosphere as we attempted to set a trajectory for a new season of ministry while continuing the good work of the good people who preceded us. At Boyce we set our sights on a “culture of pursuit” within the residence halls, where students do not just fall into friendships and haphazardly hang out together but intentionally pursue other students to know them, serve them, encourage them, and invest spiritual truth into their lives. We believe this type of community best reflects scriptural teaching, embodies the incarnational love of our pursuant Savior, and prepares students to be healthy and effective members of local churches. By God’s obvious grace, and thanks to the sacrificial and skilled labors of many staff members and student leaders, our community has shared much joy and mutual sanctification this past year. Below are a few training topics our staff has shared with our student leaders through the year.
- 11 Questions about Gossip
- Why Do We Gossip? (Part 2)
- Why Do We Gossip? (Part 3)
- Seasonal Love: Caring for College Students through the Breaks (Part 1)
- Seasonal Love: The Affections of a Full-Hearted Minister (Part 2)
- Seasonal Love: Caring for College Students through the Breaks (Part 3)
- Seasonal Love: Caring for College Students through the Breaks (Part 4)
- Stop and Think: The Mind in Life and Ministry (Part 1)
- Stop and Think: The Mind in Life and Ministry (Part 2)
- Stop and Think: The Mind in Life and Ministry (Part 3)
- Stop and Think: The Mind in Life and Ministry (Part 4)
Despite the challenges of my first academic year (2010-2011), this past school year was even more difficult. Much of the difficulty stems from the two major adjustments mentioned above (family growth and ministry transition). In addition, I went full-time in the doctoral program during the spring semester. The Lord kindly exposed many frailties and weaknesses and continues to drive important lessons deep as my early-summer reflections begin. Nevertheless, I have never learned more of the Bible, never been more excited about learning the Bible, and never felt like I knew the Bible less. This recipe of need, hunger, and feast is perfect for joy. Fueled by courses on Romans, Old Testament Theology, and Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, and fed with substantial research in Romans 1:18-25, Psalm 18, and Jonah 2, I’ve grown exponentially in my desire to know the story of the Bible in all its intricacies and the God of the story in all his glory. Evil attitudes, selfish motives, and sinful habits still hinder and grieve me, but I am grateful for God’s grace and patience in granting me the rich opportunity to study his Word even as a selfish and sinful man. In addition to courses and assignments, one highlight has been developing an eye-opening Bible-marking color scheme that has reinvigorated my Bible reading and opened new vistas to view the great tapestry of Scripture. Under God’s sovereign grace, I attribute my growing thirst and enthusiasm about the Bible to the passion and example of my doctoral supervisor, Dr. Jim Hamilton, who loves and believes the Bible with rare depth and fervency. If this kind of devotion is caught more than taught, I pray for an epidemic.
The reason we packed our bags two years ago and sojourned 2,094 miles from the Pacific shores of the West Coast to the banks of the Ohio River was to enroll at Southern Seminary here in Louisville. The reason we chose Southern Seminary was because I wanted to spend five years living and breathing an atmosphere of biblical exploration, theological depth, intellectual rigor, cultural engagement, and academic opportunity. In the past two years, in addition to courses and colloquia and conferences and conversations, I’ve had opportunities to contribute to various projects. Some family and friends may be interested in these behind-the-scenes projects that have brought much joy and growth.
- Taught “Old Testament Backgrounds” for Eternity Bible College‘s Distance Education program.
- Co-authored The Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2011) with Dr. Timothy Paul Jones.
- Published “Adoption, Assurance, and the Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit,” in The Journal of Family Ministry 2 no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 18-35.
- Published “Our Paper Pregnancy: God, the Gospel, and the Global Cause of Christ,” in A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care, ed. Russell D. Moore, 26-31 (Louisville: SBTS Press, 2012).
- Edited Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2012) with Dr. Stuart Scott and Dr. Heath Lambert.
I sense that God has been more gracious, patient, and strong toward me over the past year than during any other period of my life. I know that I have not reciprocated his faithfulness, which compels me to embrace his forgiveness afresh each day. Despite his gracious compelling, I fail even to embrace his forgiveness each day, which again leads me back to the cross and the Spirit for permanent forgiveness and daily help. It seems that my sinful tendencies and unwise habits, areas of neglect and inconsistency, and deep need for personal transformation have been markedly placed before my eyes (and the eyes of others, whose patience my sin requires). I enter the summer grateful that God is not like me, but that he does condescend to know me and to treat me kindly. Surely he is the best of all fathers — always strong, and forever kind. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. — Jude 1:24-25