Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Thoughts on a New Year

2013 has been a year of newness and change.
I’ve gotten engaged.
Explored my favorite country (so far)- Turkey.
I graduated from USC with a Business Management degree and Marketing degree
I served THE Arnold Palmer, an “Arnold Palmer” at the Masters Golf Tournament. (So not a big deal to me, but hey I made it in the newspapers!)
I joined staff with Cru to serve as a full time missionary at USC.
I drove across the country to Colorado with my fiancé.
I began seminary classes.
On August 10th I married the most wonderful man I know.
On our honeymoon in Mexico we got to share the gospel with our waiter, Jack.
We lived in 5 different houses for the first month and a half of our marriage.
We (finally) moved into our first home together mid September!
We started this faith filled journey of raising the funding for our ministry.
We met other believers, both young and old, and heard their stories.
We’ve seen God meet our financial needs in crazy, abundant ways.
We joined a new LifeGroup with married couples and formed new friendships with people completely different from us (on the outside). 
And now we’re here at our first Encounter Conference with 1200 students from the MidSouth, about to ring in the New Year with a major dance party.

Today I’m thinking about the highlights. It’s been an incredible year full of blessings, but change isn’t always easy for me. There have been a lot of emotional ups and downs as I’ve taken steps of faith to face some of my greatest fears. Plans have changed, best friends have moved away, responsibilities have grown. I’ve tried to learn to embrace the new and not cling to the familiarity of the old, recognizing that seasons come and go. God has made everything beautiful in it’s time.

2014 is a new beginning. A new season. I always enjoy reflecting on the past year and making goals and dreams for the year to come, but this year I don’t really have a clue where to go from here. In 2012, I knew that 2013 was going to be a crazy one. I knew it was going to be full of anticipation and big changes, tears and joy all mixed together. I don’t really know what to expect from 2014. I think I took care of all the major life changes in one fell swoop in 2013. I’d love to just sit back and enjoy where I’m at. I pray that 2014 will be putting down roots in these new stages of life. I want to invest in my marriage and learning how to love my husband better. I’d love to become a better cook and eat healthier. I want to take better care of my body, not to lose weight, but to feel better overall. I want to finish support raising so we can begin our work on campus. I want to be teachable, learning more about how to share Jesus with college students. Through all these steps of faith I pray that my faith will be deepened and that my love for Jesus will grow as I see Him changing lives at USC. I want to continue to be intentional about building relationships with our ministry supporters. I want to grow deeper friendships with our new LifeGroup. I want to continue making our house a home. I want to become a better hostess as we open up our home to students, friends, and strangers.

I guess the only major change I want to make in 2014 is that I really want a puppy. (like REALLY REALLY)

Other than that, I just want to grow where I’ve been planted. Right here in Columbia, SC. In conclusion my New Years resolution is to fall more in love with Jesus and as a result love the people around me better. That’s more than enough.

Love, Kelsey & John 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Control Issues

Craving control is part of being human. We all want to be the master of our own life. What's so great about control? Well in my world, and maybe yours too,  Control = Security. If you're in control you get to choose what happens to you and when it happens. You're the one calling the shots and that gives you a sense of security. 

I happen to be a very controlling person. Take my Type A personality and couple it with my insecure life experiences and you've got me- white knuckling every situation to try to get things to go my way. I strive to be perfect. I always want to be better. I want our house to be clean and tidy. I want to control when our support comes in and how quickly we get to campus. I want to control John, his actions and responses. I want to control my weight and the acne on my face. I want to control my To Do list that never seems to get done. I want to control my sin by just trying harder to be good. It's all pretty exhausting. 

The sad thing is that I'm not even very good at this game. There are people who are much better at this "pretend to be perfect" life. God is showing me that my control issues are out of control. I'm losing at my own game of Try Harder. I mean- of course I'm not in control. I know that in my head. But why can't it sink into my heart? 

During this crazy, new, exciting, stressful season of life, Jesus is showing me that I find my security in my ability to control my life. I'm find my self worth in how much I can accomplish each day. I find temporary peace and fleeting satisfaction in crossing things off my To- Do list. I am putting my hope in my own ability to be good. Thinking I can fool God. Thinking I can fool myself. 

God is ripping this idol of control from my hands. It's not a fun lesson to learn but He is teaching me that my security is in His hands, that He has ultimate authority over my life. My self worth is found in knowing that I am a daughter of the Creator of the universe. My peace and satisfaction are found in knowing His deep love for me. My hope is not found in being better, trying harder, or any level of goodness. My hope is found in Jesus' grace and forgiveness of my sinful heart. 

I don't really want to be in control. I keep fighting Him, but what I really want is for God to be in control. He's a good dad and He loves me and I'm going to choose to trust Him with these every day struggles of life. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why College Students?

Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) began in 1951 as a college ministry on the campus of University of California- Los Angelos. Now we are an international organization with many facets, including ministries to the business world, athletes, and unreached people groups.  We have a lot going on to reach the world for Christ, but our main focus is still college ministry. Cru now has a presence on over 1,000 college campuses throughout the US and in over 200 countries around the world.

 Why should Cru focus the majority of our time and energy on college ministry? Why should John and I devote the next four years our lives to sharing the gospel with college students specifically? I came across this quote in an article entitled 5 Myths of Christianity... the author, Rick McDaniel, brought up several great points... one was the myth that people become Christians through social conditioning. Here is what Rick had to say about how college and the academic world influences 18 to 22 year olds... 

"It is true that many people become Christ followers when they are young influenced by their family and upbringing. But the greatest social conditioning of any person happens when they attend a college or university. No one can honestly deny the significant changes that take place while a person is in the college environment. This social conditioning can change a person's morality, politics and faith. Lenin said, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." Far from Christianity conditioning people to faith, the academy does everything it can to condition them away from faith."

College is an incredible four years. According to the media, "its the best four years of your life!" Which in some cases, may be true, but if the best four years of your life is over at age 22, that's pretty depressing. Anyways, college is an incredibly influential stage in a person's life. You're leaving home. You have complete freedom to make your own decisions, to decide who you're going to be and what you believe. This freedom is great! I believe every person needs to make a personal decision on what they believe about God. I actually think that what you believe about God is the most important decision you will ever make. Unfortunately, students are being heavily influenced by universities that teach athiesm and the Big Bang Theory as proven fact, rather than the theories that they are. John and I want to show students that there is another side to the story. We want students to have the opportunity to hear that there is a loving God, who wants a personal relationship with every single person He created. We want students to have the chance to decide for themselves, rather than having their professors make up their mind for them. 

(Greek Impact GameDay Tailgate! This picture is a couple years old, but it's amazing to look and see the work God has done in each of these ladies lives!)

Cru believes that if we can reach college students for Christ, we can reach the world. Today's college students are tomorrow's world leaders. College students are the best and the brightest. Students at the University of South Carolina will graduate and become doctors, teachers, lawyers, accountants, businessmen, stay at home moms, and politicians. Some will stay in Columbia, but most will leave and spread out across the globe. Regardless of where they end up, they will have tremendous impact in their spheres of influence. If we can reach college students for Christ, we can reach the world. 

The fact is-Jesus changes lives at any age, any time, any place. But if we can work towards changing lives on college campuses, we can see the gospel spread more quickly and have a huge impact on our generation's culture. So, that's why we are so passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus' love and forgiveness with college students! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

We're Halfway There & Livin' on a Prayer!

Yes! It's true! We've reached the 50% mark of our support goal! We're halfway to being 100% funded and beginning this new adventure of college ministry! Hopefully you've heard the song "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi- if not do yourself a favor and go listen so you'll gain a little knowledge of pop culture and the reason behind this blog post's title.

Anyways- We're halfway there!  And we are literally livin' on a prayer! We can't take credit for a single dollar of that 50%. Every penny has been provided by God, so we must give Him the Glory! It has been absolutely incredible to watch God provide for us through people in our community. If you're into numbers you might be impressed that 25% of our current monthly support has come from people that we had never met before we contacted them! Only God can do that!! 

50%! YAYYY!!!!

Trusting God to provide for our finances has stretched our faith in so many ways. If you're new to this blog- John and I are on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) and do college ministry with Greek Impact at USC. Because Cru is a non profit organization with no central funding, we have the responsibility of raising all of the money that makes up our salary, taxes, health benefits, retirement fund, and any ministry expenses. In other words, if people don't give to our ministry- we don't get a pay check.

Raising your own paycheck is an incredibly daunting task when first presented with the idea. However, over the last four months God has shown us that it is a wonderful opportunity to grow in our faith and trust Him more fully. Now, not only do we have to trust Him to meet our emotional and spiritual needs, but we must trust Him to meet our physical needs of food, clothing, and shelter. When most people hear that we raise our support- we get a look filled with a combination of shock, pity, and confusion. And I can't blame them. My first reaction to the knowledge that I'd have to raise my own paycheck was not a good one. I was fearful, I doubted that God would provide, and I was way too prideful to entertain the idea of asking friends, family, and strangers for money. I couldn't imagine anything more uncomfortable.

Since we first began on this journey God has completely changed our hearts and feelings about support raising. We have gone from dreading the idea to truly embracing the biblical teachings of missionaries and pastors receiving their income from God's people giving generously. 

We have gone from viewing support raising as something we have to do- to something that we get to do. We now see that it is truly a privilege. 

It is a privilege to humble ourselves, to rely completely on God, to ask people to join us in our mission of telling college students about God's love and forgiveness. It's a privilege to meet people that we didn't know before, to be vulnerable and share our stories of redemption with them. It's even more of a privilege when they open up to share their own personal experiences and prayer requests. It's a privilege to have a team of ministry partners- not just people who will electronically deposit money into our account- but people who will join us in praying for God to do work on USC's campus. People who we now consider friends and who we will be praying for as well. It's a privilege to challenge God's children to step out of their financial comfort zones and give sacrificially. Not because our ministry is a worthy cause, but because God is calling them to trust Him with every area of their lives, including their finances. Depending on God to provide for us each month is absolutely a privilege. And asking people to be a part of God's provision is truly an honor.

So, THANK YOU, thank you so much to everyone who has joined us financially and to those of you who have joined us in praying for God's provision. Please continue to pray for the rest of our support to come in quickly! We are hoping to be fully funded and on campus by second semester in January! 

Praise the Lord. 

Praise God in His sanctuary,
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His acts of power;
Praise Him for His surpassing greatness. 
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, 
Praise Him with the harp and lyre, 
Praise Him with the timbrel and dancing, 
Praise Him with clash of cymbals, 
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! 
Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150:1-6

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our 15 Minutes of Fame!

John and I recently had the privilege of appearing in Oakland Baptist Church's monthly newsletter! We had a full page spread- which I like to jokingly call our "15 minutes of fame". As a result of the article any church members have expressed interest in financially supporting our ministry! YAY!

 "Why do you want to do Greek Ministry?" is a question that we get asked a lot! I've posted the article below to help explain why it's so important to tell sorority and fraternity students about Jesus! 

Connecting College Students to Christ

John O’Neal (son of Lee and Melanie O’Neal) and his new wife, Kelsey, have just entered the mission field as missionaries with Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ.  The newlyweds will be returning to their alma mater, the University of South Carolina, to tell college students about the good news of Jesus Christ. John and Kelsey will be working specifically with, “Greek Impact”, a ministry of Cru whose mission is to reach the 5,000 students involved with sororities and fraternities at USC.

Kelsey is the former Chaplain of Alpha Chi Omega at USC, and was involved with Greek Impact as a student leader throughout college. Although John chose not to join a fraternity in college, over the years God has shown him how much these young men desperately need to hear of God’s love and forgiveness. You might ask, “Why is it necessary to have a ministry specifically for sorority women and fraternity men? What about the rest of campus?”… John explained, “There are many college ministries on campus that are targeting freshman, upperclassmen, ethnic groups, and athletes, but no other ministry is going after the 5000 students involved with Greek life, so Cru is stepping in. Greek life is 20% of the USC population that needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

Men and women in sororities and fraternities tend to be highly motivated, both academically and socially, and often hold many key leadership roles on campus. This makes them the perfect audience to reach with the gospel- when a student’s life is changed by the love of God- they will use their leadership platform to share the gospel with their peers. Although these students are highly motivated, they also have a reputation for partying harder than the average college student. Alcohol, sex, drugs, and materialism are the idols that most sorority women and fraternity men worship. These young people are left feeling empty inside, searching for their satisfaction in temporary highs that fade quickly. It is not uncommon for young women to struggle with eating disorders and depression is on the rise with fraternity men. Without a personal relationship with the God that created them, these men and women are struggling to find their identity. They desperately need to hear the good news that God created them for a purpose, that they are deeply loved, and that when they trust in Jesus, they are forgiven.

The good news is that God is at work in the hearts of sorority and fraternity students at USC! There is now a weekly Bible study in every sorority house and the fraternity bible studies are growing as well. John and Kelsey’s main role will be spiritually mentoring the students involved with Greek Impact and teaching them how to share their faith, so that they can share the gospel with their friends. Kelsey excitedly said, “Our mission is that every student would know someone who truly follows Jesus!”

Cru is a non-profit organization and John and Kelsey are currently looking for financial partners to support their ministry, so they can quickly report to their ministry assignment at USC. If you would like to be apart of changing student’s lives please contact john.oneal@cru.org. John and Kelsey “would be thrilled to meet with you to tell you more about Cru and how God is changing hearts at USC”.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life as the O'Neals!

Photography by Landon Jacob Productions

In case you haven't heard...as of August 10th, 2013 I am now Mrs. Kelsey O'Neal, married to the handsome, Mr. John O'Neal! We've been married for a little over two weeks now, so far- so good! This is our new website where we will share the joys, challenges, and excitement of living life together and doing ministry with Cru!

We had a great honeymoon in Riviera Maya, Mexico... about 30 minutes away from Cancun. Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip... 

Husband showing off his new ring!

Most importantly... WE HAVE A HOUSE NOW!!! We'll be all moved into 108 Waxberry Circle by September 28th... just a month away! Until then we are being gypsies... traveling around South Carolina from Columbia, to Chapin, to Rock Hill, to Greenville. We're looking forward to having a permanent address very shortly! 

We've also officially begun to raise our financial support for Cru... so our days consist of connecting with people who might be interested in financially supporting our ministry! We have to be 100% funded before we can begin our ministry on campus, so we are praying that the Lord will provide quickly. Our goal is to be on USC's campus for the start of second semester. We are beyond excited to be back at the beautiful University of South Carolina!