The reason I went to RISE the first time is not nearly as important as the reason I went to RISE a second time. You can go to any church just once, or any event really, and never have any need to return. It happens all the time. But what convinces you to go a second time? Well, to be honest I have no idea why I went the first time. As a college freshman and a tired-out Christian, I was looking for any group to plug into and anyone who would help me feel like I belonged. The world was very black and white then, and easy was better. Easy was safe.
Which ironically (or not so ironically if you think about it), is not who RISE is. I have asked more questions with RISE than I think I’m particularly comfortable with, and black and white turned more and more into a gray; a gray which I’m convinced is starting to be the true color of love and forgiveness. Gray is not easy, which I think is why I went back a second time to RISE and many more after that. It was the first place I had come across that didn’t try to explain everything all at once; I wouldn’t find any answers to the universe here. To be honest, it was uncomfortable and fascinating at the same time. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I know now that these are the people that I needed. With this community I now consider my family, I have grown to live in the fraying gray of here and now.
I am proud of the work we do in our community, and the way we unconditionally love everyone we meet. That’s something I think is really hard to find, inside or outside of a church. I am so thankful for the love I have been given here and the unconditional love I have been taught to show to others. I have never been part of a group that is so aware of every story that walks through our doors. We ask no questions. We make no judgments. One of our sayings is “Everyone means everyone.” We don’t care what you look like or what you might believe. We’re just glad you came and that we got to meet you, because you matter to God and so you matter to us. That makes things messy sometimes and really painful. It’s a big risk to be brutally honest and authentic, but that’s how the most beautiful relationships are built.
This is the place I have come to call home and a family I have come to love. As I’m preparing to graduate and move onto another city, I hope to create honest communities like RISE everywhere I go. As hard as it will be to leave, I can be RISE to those who may never walk through their doors.
I can show the authentic love of God. I know I am a gift to this world, and one by one we are working to mend it together.
Friends, RISE is young, ambitious and passionate about mending God's creation together. My life has been transformed because you and others have supported and continue to support RISE; I want others to experience this radical grace and God's embrace, too. We need your support to continue mending and offering hope to countless young adults and persons throughout our community (and beyond). Your partnership means more than words can describe. Thank you for resolving to mend God's creation with us.
-Written by: Jordan Garrett, RISE worship leader and JMU Senior