Story and photo submitted by Rev. Debra Juarez
Director of the Wesley Foundation in Laramie, Wyoming
Campus ministry in Laramie, Wyoming, is not just some new trend – the Wesley Foundation
has been serving students for more than 90 years in Laramie! Many, many things have changed, but students still enjoy eating and talking. Thursday lunch at The Union happens every Thursday at noon (when classes are in session) and is a high point in the week for students and the Wesley director.
It’s more than just lunch – it’s a chance to meet people from all over campus. Freshmen to grad-students, from across the county and around the world, who’ve come to Laramie to study everything from veterinarian medicine to economics, to dance and music, gather around the table. Accounting and engineering students, education majors and rugby players, share a meal and talk about faith and life, family and school.
As the director of the Wesley Foundation, Thursday lunch is a highlight of my week. I am energized by the conversation and laughter and chaos that comes with dining in a campus food court. Students shared their thoughts about why they come to Thursday lunches:
"I love Wesley because it's a great way to live out your Faith in college, meet other believers attending UW, and enjoy a great meal! I also love Laramie UMC because it gives young adults many opportunities to lead in the church and help develop their Faith! Whether it is helping out during the service, helping with Sunday school, Bible study, youth group or any activity going on!" - Shelby, Freshman
"Once I make it to lunch on Thursday, I know I can make it through the rest of the week." - Melissa, Freshman
"I like Thursday meetings because I get to see new faces. And Rev. Debra is fun to be with. It makes me feel belonging to a society I don't belong in." - Mavis, PhD. Student from Ghana
"Thursday lunches are accepting of everyone – whether you come to church or not."
"It’s a detox time from engineering." - Austin G.
"I love Wesley lunches because they are accepting of everyone, despite background. Going to lunches makes me feel supported and cared for." - Sydney
Wesley lunches are open to everyone and students are encouraged to bring friends. While some students can’t make it every week, many are regulars. When they don’t show up, someone texts them to find out why they’re not there! The community checks in on one another.
Lunchtime devotions range from a discussion about Pope Francis to Jonah, the reluctant and sometimes pouty prophet. Recently students shared “what is saving your life this week?” Answers ranged from friends to faith to Thursday lunch. And everyone shared something – even after being assured they could take a pass, all participated.
Friendships, faith, and service grow out of these lunchtimes together. Students are invited to attend Sunday morning worship at First UMC Laramie, but not pressured. Some students attend a different worship gathering on Sundays and that’s okay. Lunches are also a time to “signup” for service projects throughout the community and on campus.
And Wesley isn’t confined to the University of Wyoming! This month we are taking lunch to Wyoming Technical School, an automotive and technical school in Laramie. Students from the University as well as church members are bringing pizza and home-baked treats in the hope that lunch is a universal form of fellowship and faith. Who knows where we might go next?
Want to support more campus ministries like this? Plan to give on United Methodist Student Sunday on Nov. 29! Learn more by clicking here.