Erskine’s campus ministry welcomed two new interns this semester, keeping its work with students fresh and offering a variety of opportunities for worship, study, and fellowship, some in cooperation with other campus organizations.
Campus Ministry at Erskine is a ministry of the ARP Synod to the students of Erskine College and in affiliation with Reformed University Ministries. It is led by the Erskine chaplain, Paul Patrick, with the assistance of current Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) interns Ben Johnson, a graduate of Samford University, and Kaylan Vanderlip, a graduate of the College of Charleston. Johnson and Vanderlip arrived on campus in August for a two-year term of service.
Ben Johnson leads the freshman men’s Bible study, which is focusing on Ephesians this term; helps with the campus ministry website; coordinates transportation to events off-campus; and meets one-on-one with students.
“I have been surprised with how open the students have been,” he said, adding that as a result he has seen God working in their lives “in amazing ways.”
“I had one student recently say how he was grasping grace for the first time and how freeing that was,” he said. “That conversation right there has made this job worth it.”
Johnson’s involvement with RUF at Samford led to his desire to become an RUF intern. “I can honestly say that it was God working in my life that led me to want to do it,” he said.
“Before I grasped what God’s grace was, I wanted to be a journalist,” he recalled. “However, after I began going to RUF I realized how dependent on God I really was and I owed nothing to myself but everything to Him.”
A journalism and mass communications major, Johnson felt “pulled in another direction” during his junior year, finding that he “loved leading Bible studies and meeting with underclassmen.” The RUF intern at Samford advised him to look into becoming an RUF intern.
Always there and always at work
Kaylan Vanderlip leads the freshman women’s Bible study, which is examining the Book of Esther. She also meets with students one-on-one, “getting to know them and encouraging them in their walk with Christ.”
In this semester’s Bible study, she said, “We are all learning things and seeing that even though God is not mentioned once in the book of Esther He is very present throughout it, and that similarly today it might sometimes seem that we can’t feel God’s presence, but He is always there and always at work.”
Reflecting on what brought her to Erskine, Vanderlip cited her experience of attending a Christian high school and then the culture shock that “really challenged me to think about my faith” when she moved on to the College of Charleston.
“I didn’t know anyone going into college, and so I decided to try out RUF so that I could make some friends,” she recalled. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
Two women in RUF who were upperclassmen befriended her, and during study times together they “would also ask me questions about myself and about what I was reading in the Bible,” she said.
“The genuine care they showed toward my soul made me want to do the same in others’ lives.”
Vanderlip, who describes herself as “a very quiet person,” ventured out of her comfort zone “and began investing in other girls’ lives.”
She started thinking about the possibility of an RUF internship as early as her sophomore year. In her junior year, she was asked by the RUF intern to lead the freshman girls’ Bible study, and in her senior year, she led the sophomore girls’ Bible study.
She majored in historic preservation and community planning, completing an internship at a museum during the summer before her senior year. It was during her summer experience that she realized she really wanted to do an RUF internship “because I was way more concerned about my coworkers’ hearts than I was about the work.”
Seeing the big picture
Paul Patrick is delighted to welcome Johnson and Vanderlip, and notes that Erskine has hosted five interns in previous years, going back to 2008, when Hannah Casey served solo, working mostly with women students.
“It is a privilege for Erskine to have not one, but two interns,” he said.
This semester marks the first time Erskine has had what Patrick calls “RUF-issued interns,” who, in addition to receiving mentoring and supervision while serving their internship, undergo special RUF training.
“The RUF Internship is a ‘Ministry Training/Learning Position,’” he said.
“RUF invests heavily in the lives of interns to equip them for a lifetime of service. Through staff training, a rigorous reading program, and tons of hands-on experience, RUF interns are equipped to serve students on the campus with a particular charge of investing in freshmen and students uninvolved in RUF, attempting to fold them all into ministry and into community.”
Like Johnson and Vanderlip, most interns were RUF participants as undergraduates, Patrick said, “so they understand the importance of being folded into a healthy community of ministry during the college years.”
As a seasoned college chaplain, Patrick knows the importance of slating activities and gaining students’ interest.
“Large Group Bible study at the Barn on Sunday nights, small groups, one to ones, and special events and conferences offer a lot of activity for students who are interested in community, fellowship, and ministry with RUF at Erskine,” he said.
“We have a lot of students involved, but we always want more,” he said.
Patrick points out that Erskine is “an especially busy campus,” with many students involved in many organizations, sports teams, and other groups.
“RUF is just one of many groups and one of several campus ministries that an already busy Erskine student has to choose from,” he admitted.
So he is grateful for the work and dedication of Ben Johnson and Kaylan Vanderlip. “The interns have certainly provided a spark for freshmen this year at Erskine,” he said.
The Barn and more
The Sunday evening series popularly called “the Barn,” hosted on the Patricks’ property, is a widely recognized activity sponsored by campus ministry, and marks its 10th anniversary this year. This semester’s theme at the Barn is “Dating, Marriage, Sexuality, and Singleness.”
A highlight of this semester’s Barn series was the Barbeque and Hymn Sing with music by Indelible Grace Nov. 3.
Other activities planned, ongoing, or completed this semester include group fellowship and study; Euphie Fellowship at the Barn, in cooperation with the Euphemian Literary Society; and an SCA-RUF evening of prayer and fellowship, a joint event with the Student Christian Association.
Patrick noted that campus ministry also extends an outreach to area high school students. Southlake Christian School will send some 80 students to the Barn Nov. 10.
Away from the campus, a number of Erskine students attended the RUF Fall Conference at Camp Greystone in Tuxedo, N.C., Sept. 22-23, with speaker Shawn Slate of RUF at the University of Virginia.
In all the activities of campus ministry, relationships make the difference—and that’s how Erskine’s newest interns are making their mark.
“Ben and Kaylan have done a great job connecting with freshmen and making themselves available to them. They love getting to know Erskine students and being a part of their lives on the Erskine campus,” Patrick said.
“They genuinely care about the spiritual well-being of their students and want to encourage them all to get involved in the avenues of ministry RUF offers them during these fleeting years on campus!”
More photos at the following link:
About RUF at Erskine: RUF is the campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America. Though RUF has informally been at Erskine since 2002, it gained an official presence at Erskine in 2010 via a three-way Affiliation Agreement signed between Erskine College, the ARP General Synod, and Reformed University Ministries. Erskine pays the annual affiliation expenses, the Synod provides the campus minister, and RUF provides training, conferences, and assistance via an area coordinator who provides pastoral care to interns and campus ministers in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.