Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dear ACU Freshmen

Dear ACU Freshmen,
            Welcome to Abilene, Texas!  A place that will change who you are, and at times make you wonder, “Why on earth, did I come to west Texas?”  I remember as it was yesterday arriving in January of 2010 as a transfer student from Schreiner University to Abilene Christian.  I was looking for a fresh start, somewhere to make a difference.  This is a letter I wanted to write to you as you consider your time at ACU and what choices to make, and what Abilene Christian is all about.  Following are questions that have been asked to me during the previous Welcome Week.  Please ask any more questions that you wish for me to answer.

            Is there a bubble surrounding ACU?

Plastic?  No, but at times there feels like there will be a bubble surrounding campus.  Embrace it at times, and more often than not, get out and discover Abilene.  Go do neighbor to neighbor in a poor part of town.  Go do Meals on Wheels and visit with the lonely, with which you could be their only interaction all day.

            Do I need to join a social club? 

I will point out before I answer this question that I am not in a social club.  But, I am not against them either; I’m in fact quite neutral on the issue.  First, you do not need to join a social club to be successful on campus or to get involved, I tend to think I came out okay, and I didn’t join a club.  But I live with a club guy, and have friends in all club, they are all wonderful people.  When you consider pledging your sophomore year ask yourself why do you want to join a club, and truly evaluate your reasons, because each club is different, as are you as an individual.  I have seen several people who truly had wonderful club experiences, and have seen others where club truly changed them as a person and what they stood for. 

If you do choose to pledge, remember your identity is not in a club.

            Do I have to go to chapel every day?

Technically, no you do not have to go every day.  But, you do need to go the majority of the time, you have to achieve the highly sought after target of 55 credits a day.  There are also forums at night, where you can receive up to 3 credits at one sitting, and there are ways in which you can serve in replacement to going to chapel.  For example you can deliver meals on wheels once a week instead of going to chapel.  Also, if you are working during that time, (usually it has to be off campus) you can get a chapel exemption.  You will never be exempt from all of your credits, you will always have to go to at least 12 days of chapel, or get 12 credits in some form or fashion. 

A quick note on how I feel about chapel:

Chapel is wonderful, and you will at times get bored with it, be distracted by others on their phone and their talking, but remember when you walk into chapel you are entering into a time of worship, a time of community worship where we get the privilege to take a break from our busy days and worship God.  Think about the God you know and love when you walk into Moody.

            Where should I go and eat?

This is one of my favorite questions, but I will just target food styles on this one. 

For Mexican food, go to Los Arcos on Ambler, it is amazing!

For a burger, go to Wholly Cow on Judge Ely or Lucy’s on Treadaway

For a date, take her to Beehive in downtown Abilene

For a cheap place, go to Little Panda & Rosas.

For a place where you will not be able to move, go to Bells Chicken House on the west side of Ambler, all you can eat sides with fried chicken, or my favorite the chicken fried ribeye.

            How are you a business major at a Christian college?

When I first arrived at ACU I went through the whole “Should I be a Bible Major panic?”  One thing that allowed me to be a peace with the decision were two quotes I heard one was from A.W. Tozer:

             “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular; it is why he does it.”

The second quote came from Dr. Rick Lytle, dean of College of Business Administration when he said, “More people go to work, than church.”

These two quotes have made me come to peace about not being a defined Bible major, but I do consider myself to be a missions major, and that is what’s so great about ACU.  The professors and staff make you think missionally about anything you want to do in your life.

            Are girls coming here strictly for their Mrs. degree?

Of course there are some here, but don’t let that be the focus of any dating relationship you get here on campus.  Also, this is going to sound radical, you do not have to date and get married here, or ever.  There is a huge myth that to be successful, on graduation day, you need to have 1. A diploma 2. A job and 3. A spouse.  I would highly recommend getting the first two, but the third do as you want, and live your life how you want to live it.  Not how your parents or grandparents want you to live your life.  If that is something you desire in the short term, my blessings on your search, but don’t force anything.

            How do I find a church home?

There are over 600 churches in Abilene, with all of them uniquely different.  From Beltway that has 1,000’s of members to Hamby that has less than a 100.  From a church that is deaf and uses sign language to a church that is charismatic and speaks in tongues, you will find plenty of diversity here in Abilene.  Go and explore and find community.  If you have one bad experience, do not let that discourage you from going somewhere else, or even trying that church again.  Go to a place where you don’t just sit in a pew, but you help contribute to that churches growth.

Remember, you will never find a church that looks exactly like you. 

            What’s the best piece of advice you can give me?

1.         Enjoy your scraped knees.  You will fail, and fall down, and hurt, and cry maybe in the first week of school.  Embrace it, embrace the change.  This is a new chapter of your life and you need to reali ze all of your comfort zones are gone.  Get out there, and do not fear the unexpected, the rejection, and the possibility of failure, embrace it and strive for success.  Your education and time at ACU is an investment, you get what you put into it.

2.         Meet your professors, they are here for you guys, us.  They want to get to know you and learn about you and help you achieve all of your goals.

3.  Discover the God you know and love in a new setting and environment. 

In conclusion, enjoy your time here at ACU.  You never get these four years, or five for some of you, back.  Get involved and discover your dreams and live them out.  Abilene gives you the opportunity for you to reach your potential in a Christ-centered environment.  There are great things here, and there are bad, but remember you can make a difference not just in Abilene, but wherever you go from here.  As a senior, I can truly say ACU has blessed me to go on and do great things wherever I go, I will always be thankful to this community and the knowledge I have gained here.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Program Evaluation

Joseph Austin
The curious adventure of a business major, aspiring lawyer who took a job as a chaplain, and what he learned from it.

Self Evaluation

1.  Discuss a significant pastoral experience you have had during this internship, how it affected you, and what you learned from it.

            One visit that impacted me at the time and still does, was with a woman named Nikeva.  Nikeva was in the hospital due to an allergic reaction she had with some over the counter medicine she took.  The reaction took her eye sight.  We had two visits and the two visits were very opposite.  On the first visit I discover her eyesight was gone and felt great sorrow for this woman of twenty-eight.  The first visit she felt very confident that God was using this to strengthen her in ways she could not see, literally.  During this time there was the possibility that her loss of eyesight could be temporary.  So, her spirits were very high in the visit, and she seemed very positive, given the circumstances, and I validated her where she was and left.  The visit was about twenty minutes long. 
            I visited her again about two or three days later, I wanted to check with her to see if the doctors had given her any update on her eyesight.  The doctors had and I knew so, by her demeanor when I walked in the room.  I came in and tears flooded out with her.  That faith that seemed so strong a few days ago, was not shattered and pouring out.  This visit lasted nearly an hour and I sat with her, sometimes in silence, sometimes talking, but mainly listening.  Giving her a fresh set of ears to listen to her stories and hear her out.
            These two visits affected me in a number of ways.  One obvious way, was thinking about a song I had and still do sing so many times, “Amazing Grace.”  The one line, “I once was blind, but now I see” has such a new meaning to me as I prayed with this woman twice, for well sight.   To be able to see, to have what she once had.


            This young man was just three years older than myself, 24, and was non-verbal during all of our visits, but his eyes spoke so much to me.  I saw so much hope, pain, and just love in his eyes.  I would pray with him; witness the priest anointing him, and my heart would break when doctors continually gave me and the family bad news.  I continued to hope and pray for him, and when I found out that he died, my heart broke.  This was one visit that I’ll always remember, seeing Ryan in CV recovery was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Sometimes there are no words for pain so great.

2.  Name and address your pastoral strengths and weaknesses.



            One of my great pastoral strengths that I have developed over my life is a sense of empathy due to previous life experiences.  I believe when I walk into a room, I can show attentiveness and awareness to the situation without directly stating what I’ve been through.  This has helped me when patients are maybe weary of my age when I come into a room.  I believe I’ve been able to bring a good presence into the room.


            I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am now an extrovert, but I do still have a lot of introvert in me.  This allows me to be able to match the patient’s moods quickly and be able to meet their spiritual needs wherever they may be that day.  This has been critical working between Texas Children’s and St. Luke’s Hospitals this summer.  I have been with kids who want nothing, but laughter that day, and that’s what I give them.  Many times at St. Luke’s I have had several patients who are going through difficult times and need that solemn mood to let go of some of their issues as best they can.


            I made a point to get to know everyone I worked with really well at St. Luke’s and Texas Children’s.  I remember shadowing Chad on one of my first days, and he brought up a great point about really getting to know the staff on your floor.  The time spend on each floor should be almost 50-50 with patients and staff.  I was kind of like wow!  Chad, hey you loafer!  But, I started to realize this about the third week after RN’s, PCA’s, and PT’s were giving me referrals.  Also, the staff is with the patients 100% of the time, and we are a team working to make their stay in the hospital as comfortable as possible.  Many staff would stop me and let me know so and so could really use a visit, and I really appreciated that.  Also, I would minister to the staff as well, they would share stories with me about previous patients they had lost, and I could tell that sometimes I was the first person they were telling these stories too.  Staff needs support too!


            While I did list this as a strength it did come back to be a negative at times.  In one verbatim it was noted that I was pushing an agenda with a patient that I saw my dad in.  This man and my dad both shared the characteristics of recovering from drug addictions.  I needed to work a lot on my subconscious and what my past was trying to do in some of my visits;  both the good and the bad.

God is there whether I bring Him up or not

            Exactly what I said, I can’t force it in a visit, and learned quickly the guilt I would have if I didn’t bring up God or prayer that those feelings were unwarranted.  God is there!  God is with me, wherever I go!

3.  What aspect of your theology was challenged the most?  Explain.

            My theology was most challenged by being accommodating of multiple beliefs and theologies.  It is hard enough to have a firm and full understanding of all of my beliefs in my evolving surroundings, but it is much harder when you have to accept and validate those you come in contact with.  I entered the summer knowing I would come and visit with patients whose beliefs are much different than mine.  I also came into the summer, and still struggle with this, believing I was responsible for people’s souls, whether they would get into heaven or not.  I knew not to evangelize in the rooms, and definitely not to push my beliefs upon others, but I would leave rooms questioning.  I wasn’t necessarily questioning their beliefs, but I left questioning my beliefs from when I was born.  When I would meet in rooms of Jews and Muslims, the verse from John 14:6 would stick with me so much as I left and reflected on the visit: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
            I was raised with this verse instilled in me and being taught that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  I’ve never battled with this verse before me, because I haven’t really needed to.  But, this summer in the hospital I had several visits with people not professing Jesus Christ as their savior, and I would walk out puzzled.  These people had faith and showed it to me, but my beliefs told me they were going to hell.  Now, I do know I am not the judge, and I do not make the decision on where these people will spend eternity, but it does make me think.  It makes me wonder, and hope, and doubt, and really question the God I know and serve.  Does God get what He wants?

4.  Name and describe something you have learned about yourself as a person this summer. 

·         I learned that I could possibly be a chaplain full time as a profession.  I discovered I really enjoyed doing this, and I loved the people I worked with. 

·         I am extrovert!  Virgil told me, I thought I was an introvert.

·         I love people and sharing with them in their pain.  I believe God has called me to a life of grief, I really do.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

·         I don’t want to preach, I never really wanted to, just thought I would say that.

·         I learned looking at people in their eyes in a visit and being totally there for them is exhausting.  I was more tired after some of my visits, than I was after some of my football games in high school.

·         I learned that trusting in God, doesn’t necessarily mean you know all the answers.

·         Your faith is stronger and wiser when you realize you don’t have all the answers.

·         I learned the right thing to say sometimes, is to just sit with a patient, in silence, grieving together.  Sometimes there are no words when grief hits so suddenly.

·         I learned it is okay to laugh at death.  One afternoon I was sharing a visit with Brother Francis in the Chapcave and he got a call to go to a room at TCH.  I went with him to tag along, and when we got to the room, the room was empty.  He then said in the most straightforward voice, “Well looks like she’s dead.”  I just looked at him in bewilderment, and he just started laughing.  She wasn’t dead, but in another location.  But, he shared with me that you develop a sense of humor that helps while working in the hospital, you can’t be so serious all the time it will drive you crazy.  I learned to laugh at death, at that moment. Ha!

5.  What were your learning goals for this internship?  How well did those goals serve you and what would you do differently if you were to do another internship?


1.  Work on grief counseling in relation to people in crisis

2.  Deal with grief of Rebekah

3.  How to handle my baggage for future relationships

These goals served me very well, as you all know, except for Chad;  I was supposed to get married in June, and plans changed so I had to find something to do this summer.  Not only did I find a wonderful job, but this program allowed me to process my grief while helping others process theirs as well. 

“It’s almost as if God had planned this” - a preaching friend told me this, I could only chuckle

I will also include two questions from the program evaluation. 

Program Evaluation

1.  Overall, how would you rate the effectiveness of this internship as a learning experience?  As a personal growth experience?

            I thoroughly enjoyed this internship. Numbers & comparisons cannot tell how much I learned, and how much I enjoyed, but I am an accounting major so let’s give this a shot.

 If this internship was in the NBA, it would be the Miami Heat of internships.

If this internship was a medal, it would be gold.

If this internship was a number it would be 9.75, why?  Well 9.75 raised to the power of 5 = 88,109.569 and that is how many questions this internship has provoked in me. 

Also 10- 9.75= 0.25 also know as 25%.  25% is the percentage of these questions I tried to answer and I exhausted myself.

Numbers aside, this internship allowed for the freedom of questions, and the environment for these questions to be asked without fear of being judged. 

2.  What elements of the internship did you find most helpful?  Why?

            I enjoyed the freedom of the internship in relation to the afternoons.  I enjoyed having lists, but not being required to see an exact number of patients or specific patients each day.  I would get there around 12:30ish to 1 each day and leave anywhere from 4-5:30ish each day, I loved how flexible it was and how I didn’t have to meet any quota.  I was able to give what I had, and if I had a patient who took it all out of me one day, such as a Latter Day Saint who read the book of Mormon with me, then I could take a nice breather before stepping in the next room. 
            I loved not only having my Church of Christ patients, but having a floor I got to share with Chad.  Fun Fact:  I never had a Church of Christ patient on the 24th floor.  But, I had every religion, denomination you could think of besides the CoC, except for Hindu. 

            I loved getting to know my Lifeline friends, but I also loved getting to know the fellow CPE students at St. Luke’s.  On Tuesday and some Thursdays I would spend all day at Texas Children’s Hospital and I loved telling the kids jokes.  They loved it as well, and it really opened the floor for conversation.  The CPE interns would be my audience to test out my jokes, before I used them on the floor.  This was our bonding time, I also tried them on some of the residents, but Glenn and Johnna weren’t the most supportive of my stand up career.  Here is a sample of some of the jokes I used:

 What did the magician say to the fisherman? 

Why did the elephants get kicked out of the pool?

Why did the scarecrow get a promotion? 

Joke answer key

A: Pick a Cod and Cod!

A:  Because they kept dropping their trunks!

A:  He was outstanding in his field!

Thank you for reading, and if you or someone you know would like to get involved with Lifeline in the Houston area, or if you are a ACU or Pepperdine student and want to do what I did, I would love to talk to you more about what I did!  Thanks for reading!