About Impact

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Sharing My Story

Over the last year Christian Church of Thousand Oaks (CCTO) has had different members share about how God's Story has intersected with their stories. Since I'm partnering with the awesome congregation, they asked me to share as well. Here is my story of being called to do campus ministry. 

Most little girls enjoy playing house or pretending their dolls are getting married and having children. Not me! I pretended I was a doctor, a teacher, a scientist, an explorer, or a minister. On the rare occasion I played with dolls, they became my students or a church congregation. I remember stealing our family devotion book, sneaking into my room and reading the devotions as if I was preaching a sermon to my row of dolls. It was one of my favorite things to do, but it was always done in secret.

In the small farm town where I grew up, women were to have very little to do with ministry outside the kitchen and young children. While I never remember my parents teaching me this, our church seemed to have a way of making sure I was aware and that I was to be quiet in the process.  I had a habit as a child of asking questions, lots of them. Most of these questions were met by reprimands and never answers. So I quit asking…out loud anyway.

By the time I went to college, I had convinced myself it wasn’t acceptable to ask questions and I could never do ministry, so I would be a teacher. As I studied music education, I found myself becoming incredibly successful in the classroom but increasingly drawn to this childhood dream of being a minister. Years of questions stored away in my mind could no longer be silenced. After all, asking questions, searching for truth and discovering who you want to be are critical points of development for any college student. It can be an incredibly difficult journey for many.

In my first few years of college, it became very clear that God was calling me into ministry. I had no idea how I would call home and tell my parents I was going to do something that simply wasn’t acceptable, so I didn’t. I continued to pursue my education degree and basically told God I could never do ministry. It wasn’t a very easy road.

During my junior year, I joined some friends that were starting a college ministry at our church. Serving in that ministry made it incredibly difficult to ignore what God was calling me to do. In a moment of rare courage in my senior year, I called my parents and told them I was going to go into ministry. The call went much better than I had expected. I changed my major. I started a great internship at our church, which would later turn into a part-time position. I graduated with plans to move into a full-time position at the church.

A few days after graduation, I arrived at the church office only to find that there were no funds for the full-time position and my job would be terminated at the end of the week. I was devastated. The next several years were filled of even more questions and lots of waiting on God. I became a band director, a job I really did not enjoy. My ministry now took place in the four walls of my classroom. Most days it felt more like a prison. God and I had several intense conversations during these years.

After a couple years of teaching, I received an e-mail from Impact’s executive director stating I had been recommended to him as someone who would really enjoy campus ministry. I met with him only to inform him I wasn’t interested in campus ministry but rather student ministry, referring to middle school and high school students. A year later he e-mailed again asking if I would join him and a prayer team for lunch because they were going to be starting a campus ministry in our area. I reluctantly agreed. At that lunch a few people on the prayer team asked if I would go pray with them at the University of Notre Dame. How do you say no when someone asks you to pray with them?

My bad attitude and I went to one of my favorite spots on Notre Dame’s campus to listen to God. Approximately ten minutes of complete silence passed and I had a conversation with God that went something like this.

God: Sarah, what have I called you to do?
Me: Student ministry! Could we get on with it?
God: I was just wondering, how many students do you think are on this campus?
Me: Oh…okay, I’ll consider college ministry…I guess.

Less than two months later, after many questions of course, I accepted a position as an Associate Campus Minister on Impact’s South Bend, IN team. My campus ministry journey has been amazing, not always easy, but amazing. I stand in disbelief that God has chosen me to be a part of such a vital ministry. I am humbled at the opportunity I have to partner with CCTO to reach college students at CLU and other local campuses. Most of all, I’m grateful He loves me so much He graciously answers my questions.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cali Bound - Day 7

As you read in my last blog, we made plans to meet Jennifer this morning and stop by Sweet Cakes to buy some treats for the road. We wanted to help them get some more business because their treats are delicious, so we made this video to post all over social media.

Their treats were great fuel for our trip and we needed it because we decided to stop at Zion National Park to do some hiking before our last stop before Thousand Oaks. The hike was exactly what we needed to be out of the car and in God's creation just listening to Him and being with Him in preparation for our arrival in TO. Here are a few shots from the trip. There will probably be more on Facebook later.

These 3 peaks are called The Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
I love climbing rocks!
Panorama Fun! Click on it to make it larger.

We arrived in Las Vegas tonight to stay with Gessica's aunt and uncle. We've shared lots of laughs to night. We'll have a leisurely morning here and then head on to Thousand Oaks. We're almost there.

Cali Bound - Day 6

Day 5 ended by arriving in Salt Lake City, Utah to stay with our Impact U staff. I decided planning a rest day in the middle of the trip would probably be a good idea and SLC seemed like a great place to do it. Here is a look at some of our adventures.
Brett gave us a tour of campus.
We got to help out with some "tabling" on campus.
After lunch Tommy took us to the Mormon Temple and taught us a little bit more about what it is like to reach out to a campus and community that heavily influenced by the Mormons. It was a powerful time connecting with the heart of Impact U's ministry and the very eye opening to the culture in SLC. As we debriefed the experience, Tommy surprised us and took us to Sweet Cakes, a completely gluten-free bakery. It was amazing!

We spent the evening hanging out at Tommy and Jennifer's house eating an amazing gluten-free feast and sharing lots of laughs. Tommy managed to capture one of my crazy story telling moments.
Of course I brought gifts for Tommy and Brett so they could drink their coffee from a proper mug.
This morning we'll head over to Tommy and Jennifer's again to make a trip to Sweet Cakes to buy some snacks for the road.

It was so encouraging to spend time on campus with our staff and see up close the work they are doing. It was fun to spend time praying with them about the new adventures in Cali and learn from their team leader about going into a new place and planting a campus ministry. I absolutely love our Impact staff and the Impact U team is doing incredible things!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cali Bound - Day 5

Today we took a little trip off our path to meet a friend, Tyler, from the South Bend area who recently moved to Ft. Collins, CO. It was great to catch up with Tyler and see a little bit of the area. Bakeries with gluten-free cupcakes and the coolest coffee shops.

We also decided to check out the Colorado State University. It was a beautiful campus and we met a very cool lady in the bookstore.  And the rest of the day was spent in the car trying to convince Little Gray Car it could make it up the huge Utah mountains.

Cali Bound - Day 4

Today was a long day so it will be a short post. Our 9 1/2 hour trip became 16 hours due to some unplanned trips to pray on three different campus. We stopped at the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas and the university of Nebraska. We were also able to meet some campus ministry staff at Mizzou and KU, which was really cool. It was a fun adventure.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cali Bound - Day 2-3

It was a great weekend. We spent Saturday with my sister, Anna, shopping and visiting the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I may hate shopping but I love spending time with my sister.
On Sunday afternoon we drove to Columbia, MO to visit my aunt and uncle. We even got to spend some time with my cousin and her kids.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cali Bound - Day 1

Gessica and I in front of the old 5824!
It has certainly been a long day. Packing was pretty stressful trying to get the few things I still own to fit in Little Gray Car. Fortunately, my parents came to help with the moving out craziness.
We all had lunch together and then Gess and I were on the road west. The first leg of the drive was to Quincy, IL to spend the weekend with my sister, Anna Lee. We arrived safely but not without some fun along the way. There are a few things we are trying to do in every state to add some excitement to hours of driving.
  1. Take a picture of the state sign.
  2. Take a picture of something that represents the state's nickname.
  3. Meet someone new.
Our time in Indiana was very limited and we were wondering how we could find something to represent the Hoosier state in such limited time. We stopped for a cup of coffee a little disappointed with the situation. I grabbed my cup of coffee and simply asked God to help us find something. (Silly I know, but I did it.) Literally as I was praying a man walked in with a Hoosiers shirt. Gess and I started laughing out loud. I'm sure the man thought we were crazy. Gess briefly told him the story and asked if we could take a picture with him. He loved the idea and said, "Sure. My shirt will make history!" We made a new friend and got a picture of something about Indiana.
Meet our new friend, Thomas!
I'm hoping to blog each night on this trip and share some of our stories with you. In the mean time, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Use the hashtag #caliskoutz to send us messages, ask questions or give us a picture challenge.

Thank you for all of your prayers on this great adventure.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

California or Bust

The time is finally here and tomorrow starts the big road trip. My roommate, Gessica, will be traveling across the country with me. We are planning to visit family, friends, supporters, potential supporters, and fellow Impact staff along the way. Here is our itinerary; we would appreciate your prayers during our adventure.
  • August 23rd - 24th: Quincy, IL
  • August 25th: Columbia, MO
  • August 26th: Sidney, NE
  • August 27th- 28th: Salt Lake City, UT with stops in Ft. Collins, CO and Rawlins, WY
  • August 29th: Las Vegas, NV
  • August 30th: New home in Thousand Oaks, CA
Gessica and our Impact students have created a hashtag (#caliskoutz) for those of you who are on Facebook or Twitter.  You can follow this hashtag to get updates on our adventures or send us messages along the way.  

Many thanks to all of you who have been praying, sending words of encouragements, given special financial gifts and cooked wonderful meals for me this last week. I am incredibly grateful to be partnering with you to Impact the U. Impact the World.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FAQ about California

I've heard a handful of questions several times so I thought I would share some Frequently Asked Questions and their answers with you. Impact's Development Team released this letter that may answer some questions as well.

Q: Why California?
A: A majority of America's college students are in the states of California, Texas, Florida and New York. Impact currently has a presence in Florida and New York and has been praying about expanding into California and Texas. We believe God has answered these prayers in huge ways by bringing us this opportunity to partner with the Christian Church in Thousand Oaks (CCTO).

Q: Why California Lutheran University (CLU)?
A: CCTO is located a few blocks from CLU and has a huge heart for reaching college students. CLU has a large population of international students, which is exciting as we think about our vision. (Impact the U. Impact the World.) As we've discovered from our ministry in South Bend, even at private Christian colleges there are many students who have not experienced the love of Christ.

Q: When are you leaving? When do you start in the new position?
A: If all goes as planned, I'll be leaving South Bend, IN on August 23rd and arriving in Thousand Oak, CA on August 30th. The new position officially starts on September 1st, but I've already started preparing and training for it.

Q: What about South Bend? Will ministry continue at St. Mary's?
A: Absolutely ministry will continue at St. Mary's! The student leader team we put together for the 2013-2014 school year is incredible and we are already planning for the fall. Tom Neyhart, a fellow Associate Campus Minister on our South Bend team, recently finished his support raising and will be joining the team full-time. The team has hired an intern who is raising support to be on campus this fall and talking with an individual who is considering an official volunteer position. The staff is committed to sharing Christ with the St. Mary's campus.

Q: Do you have to raise more support?

A: Yes! The cost of living in California is very different than South Bend and additional funds will need to be raised both for personal and ministry budgets.

Q: Can I see you again before you leave?
A: I hope so! The South Bend team is planning a party on August 16th at 6:30 PM at the campus house. (850 Lincolnway East, Mishawaka, IN 46544) It would be great to have you join us then. Please RSVP HERE or e-mail Lowell Kosak at lowell.kosak@impacttheu.com.

Q: This is exciting! How can I be a part of it?
A: Thank you for your willingness to join the journey. Here are some ways you can get involved.
  • Pray! Change always comes with challenges. Here are some specific ways you can pray.
    • Pray for the transition to California, saying goodbye well, the moving details, and an openness to the Spirit in the process.
    • Pray for housing in Thousand Oaks. 
    • Pray for the additional support needed. 
    • Pray for my car to survive the long drive. There are a few minor repairs that may need to be tended to before I leave if funds become available. 
    • Pray for the following trips I have scheduled.
      • July 17-21: Support raising in the Detroit and Lansing, MI area. 
      • July 26-28: Family trip to Indianapolis, IN
      • August 23-30: MOVING WEEK stopping to visit with supporters and potential supporters along the way.
  • Donate items for the "Sarah is Moving" yard sale on August 2 & 3. All the money from this sale will go towards moving and launching the new ministry. If you have items you would like to donate, contact Lowell Kosak at 574-245-0142 or lowell.kosak@impacttheu.com.
  • Become a financial partner by giving a monthly gift of any amount. You can give online HERE.
  • Give a special one-time gift towards the start up costs of the ministry. You can give your special gift HERE and invite friends to do the same. 
If you have a question that isn't so frequent and would like to ask, please do not hesitate to contact me at sarah.koutz@impacttheu.com

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Food

Back in March I had the privilege to have meet with several missionaries who worked or are working in Kenya. They had warned me that the food was rather bland and not anything amazing. While this was true, I didn't expect to be eating so many other types of foods. During the course of our trip I had Kenyan, Ethiopian, Indian, Italian, Lebanese, Mexican, Thai and American food.

Kenyans eat a lot of rice and ugali, which is like a super thick cornmeal porridge similar to the consistency of mash potatoes. Each meal usually had some sort of greens as well, usually kale, and a meat such as chicken, goat or beef. The meat is fixed different ways but you almost always eat it with the ugali and a thin bread. I can't tell you much about what the bread tastes like since I can't eat it, but our team seemed to enjoy it.

And because I know there are some of you who love food pictures, here you go! (Thank you Jeff for most of these pictures!)

The ugali is the white stuff on the top plate.

This was the wonderful meal we had at Erus' house, goat and rice.

Yes that is two pieces of goat and massive plates of fries.
Indian food
Ethiopian Food is my personal favorite! The bread is gluten free and the flavors are amazing.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Some more pictures

I thought I would share just a few more pictures from the trip just for fun.

Morning lessons and prep for the day
We spent a lot of time in vehicles.
A taxi in Nairobi
Our vehicle in Turkana
Another Nairobi Taxi that became our Safari vehicle
Our plane to Turkana
We nicknamed the Mennonite Guesthouse in Nairobi our Base Camp. We had plenty of fun there.
Teaching our driver, Phillip, how to play American football
One of the coolest swings ever
Frisbee! We were always trying to get our drivers to play.
Breakfast was one of the meals we girls enjoyed the most. I know you are thinking, "They hate mornings. Why would breakfast be one of their favorites?" We discovered Bill tells his greatest stories and is the most funny at breakfast time. So we were never late for that meal!
 A random jaw bone we found in Turkana. We have no clue what animal it came from. Any guesses?
Several of you have asked about Erus' house so here are some more pictures.
Click to enlarge this picture

This is what we woke up to the next morning while when we stayed with Erus.

Such a beautiful place! Tomorrow I'll share some about the food we add. This has been another popular question.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 13

At the end of day 12, we spent our last evening Kenya exchanging pictures and spending as much time together as we could. I'm not sure anyone on our team was ready to part ways the next day.
Our last day in Kenya did not disappoint. We went to the traveling Maasai market, which was very overwhelming for me. I'm not very good at bartering, nor do I enjoy it. I find it very stressful, but I bought a few gifts while I was there and helped barter a fair price for Megan's birthday present that made everyone happy.
Megan's Birthday from Impact Campus Ministries on Vimeo.

We also stopped at a few other stores and I was in charge of Mission Keep Megan Away From the Group So They Can Sign Her Birthday Card. That ended up becoming a great adventure in and of itself as it took the group longer than planned, we were given bad directions and ended up in a doctor's office. Somehow we were able to play it off well enough that Megan was surprised by her little birthday party.
Pretending to blow out candles we didn't have and the matches were already packed.
Happy birthday Megan!
Many of the trees in Kenya scream, "Climb me!" (Well, except for the acacias and their giant thrones!) This was especially true of a few of the trees at the guesthouse. I couldn't stand it any longer and finally asked Bill about how culturally inappropriate it would be to climb the trees. To my surprise he told us we could climb the trees at the guesthouse and you better believe I did! Also to my surprise was the fact that the bark on this particular tree is VERY slippery making it very difficult to climb. In fact, Eric was the only one who made it very high.

This is what Eric did while I was in the tree convincing him to climb it.
Finally our time in Kenya was running out and later in the evening we hopped on our taxi and started the long drive to the airport thanks to crazy downtown Nairobi traffic. It gave us plenty of time to share stories and that is exactly what we did. We were sure to make the most of every moment we had together. I'm so grateful for this team, a genuine community!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 12

Day 12 was our last day at Africa Hope. We said goodbye to our new friends and then discovered we had to wait because our taxi wasn't there yet. So we did what all Americans would do...we pulled out our cell phones and iPods. Obviously there was service but we could play random songs and have some fun as we waited.
We took the long way back to the guesthouse in Nairobi so we could spend some time at the Nairobi Game Reserve and marvel at God's creation. Remember those Big 5 I mentioned in an earlier post? Well those Big 5 are not only pretty dangerous animals they are incredible to watch in their own habitat and some of the big animals tourist always want to see. Those five are elephants, cape buffalo, lions, rhinos and leopards. We were able to see three of those including some other remarkable creatures on our little safari. Here are just a few of them.
We saw 7 lions, two females with cubs.
This male cub is already starting to grow his mane.
We almost missed this cape buffalo!
We found this small rhino very entertaining, but I'm not sure it liked us.
Look closely. There is a young rhino with this momma.
We saw several different type of deer-like animals, including this gazelle.
This warthog walked right in front where we were going to drive.

This ostrich walked in front of our taxi too.
This trees isn't as tall as you may think but it was still fairly tall.
We saw lots of giraffes, including what I think is the worlds largest!
More baboons! They seem to be wherever people are.
Nature is one of my favorite ways to connect with God so you can imagine how much I loved our adventure on this day. The landscape, the animals, and the company were all such great reflection of God's creativity. He is so amazing!

After a great adventure like this it was sad to think it was time to head back to the guesthouse, repack all of our belongings and get ready to fly home after our last day in Kenya.