Letter from an Emmaus Collegiate Missionary

Letter from an Emmaus Collegiate Missionary

Dear Emmaus Family,

You are truly a dear people to me, and it seems the name Emmaus means more to me every week. I have attended Emmaus since my sophomore year of college, and I have grown so much as a part of this community. I’m deeply grateful that our church was planted near Park University with the intentions of reaching my campus and that I was reached.

I graduated this spring, and I thought I would leave Parkville and Park University behind. But, God surprised me my senior year. As I prayed for his leading, as I thought about what was next for me, He led me in a new, amazing direction. My prayers became a fervent question of “Lord, what do You want me to do?” and God answered, “Feed my sheep.” And the sheep he called me to are His children at Park University. God gave me a heart of deep love for this campus and a desire to see Park renewed by the Gospel — to see the students here, my friends, transformed by Jesus. After much prayer, I accepted a position as an intern with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to be a campus minister at Park — a missionary to the college campus.

God called me and has been faithful. It’s my second week on campus. I am standing before a group of thirty or so people, old friends and new students. I am sharing a call to faith at Revive for what is likely the first time ever. I’m nervous, but as I’m fighting stage fright and talking faster than usual, I trust that it will be fruitful even if no one stands in response. As I share with these students a Jesus who loved a woman caught in adultery, my dear Jesus, I offer opportunities for response. I ask for students to stand if they know about Jesus but want to intentionally and personally pursue a relationship with Him… three people stand immediately and I’m blown away. Shocked and excited, I continue. I offer for those who are hearing of their guilt and Jesus’ grace for the first time and want Jesus, and I see six more students stand. I feel as if I could cry from joy, but I continue, and I offer opportunity for anyone who wants to join in bringing God’s kingdom to campus. Every seat is empty. The entire room is standing, and I am in utter awe of God’s graciousness toward me and toward Park.

At Imani, our newly-formed Black Campus Ministry InterVarsity group, (where African American students can explore faith in the African American context), we gather every week around a table of pancakes and God’s Word. Allison and Neek both gave their lives to Christ at an InterVarsity conference last spring, and now they are leading this group as sophomores who felt led to create this space, and I thank the Lord for their faithfulness. In week three of the semester, Kiara, a freshman, said, “I was invited to Revive, but I didn’t think I would relate to anyone there, and I am so glad I came here tonight!” She comes every week as a faithful regular in this growing community. God’s good plan to reach all corners of campus is thrilling and multiplying.

After standing in response at the call to faith at the beginning of the semester, Rachel and Marina have decided to be faithful to Jesus and create a new community for others to meet Him and grow in Him. They’re forming a track and field Bible study that will kick off this coming spring, and their willingness to follow Jesus is a witness and encouragement to my soul.

Not only have there been tremendous uplifting experiences, but also moments of sharing students’ burdens. As students open the messy parts of their lives with me, I hear stories of school stresses, broken home lives, and even had a student frankly and desperately share he was suicidal. Even in these times, Jesus has been so good to us while we seek Him together.

My voice is one that speaks forgiveness in Jesus, peace with our Father, and a place for all, including those heavy laden. But I cannot do this alone, not logistically, not emotionally and spiritually. If you are interested in supporting me and the work on campus, there are a few ways that you can be a part of what God is doing at Park University.

One fantastic way to be a partner in my ministry is to pray. Pray for me, for the students, for the places on campus yet to be reached. I send out regular updates and prayer requests for my ministry via email. I would be happy to add your email to the list. Another way is volunteering; I know I’m not alone in having a heart for collegiate ministry, and I can help provide opportunity in many capacities. One way is to remember that some of the students I work with are the people that stand near you on Sunday. There’s a substantial number of students who already attend, and many that try our church, often at my recommendation. If you can intentionally get to know the college-age students, you might stumble across some Park students, and I believe they’d enjoy feeling connected and known.

Lastly, the most nuts-and-bolts way you can support me is financially. I am a missional minister, and like all InterVarsity staff, I am able to be on campus because people partner with me by giving financially. This financial partnership makes my ministry possible.

Again, I am so thankful for the community and support provided by you all; I relish every Sunday we spend together. I am excited for the plans God has in store for Park and for the opportunity for your partnership with me in this journey and in this joy!

Deeply and most sincerely,

Hannah Elyse Bertram


If you’d like to contact Hannah directly, you can email her at hannah.bertram@intervarsity.org

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders, of His love

Even when I know the words to a worship song, I like to read them while I sing. Maybe it’s a way for me to not get distracted. Or maybe it makes the song more real if I get to see it. I don’t know why, but something happens when I get to visualize what I am singing about. I mean, I knew the words to “Joy to the World” before Christ’s coming even meant joy to me. This Christmas season, the words of this song meant something to me that it hasn’t before though.

In December, our church had an awesome opportunity to partner with Refuge KC, a Christian non-profit ministry that is dedicated to welcoming refugees here in Kansas City in a Gospel-centered way. They provided us information about eight refugee families and we paired them with eight community groups in our church. Each community group prepared a Christmas basket for a Karen refugee family filled with gifts and traditional food.

The Karen (pronounced ku-RIN) are a small ethnic people group, originally from Myanmar (also known as Burma). Many Karen people have had to flee their homes in Burma to escape the violence and brutality of the Burmese government, and many end up in a refugee camps on the Thailand-Burma border. Traditionally an Animist people, the Gospel was proclaimed by Baptist missionaries in the 19th century and many Karen people received it with open hearts. Thousands of Karen refugees who have migrated to the United States in the last several years are actually Bible-believing Christians.

On a chilly December night, members of our church met up at a coffee shop to divy up the baskets, pray, and head out to deliver them. We weren’t going to just drop off the baskets, but we were given an unique opportunity to actually carol as we went from home to home with the Christmas baskets. Though possibly seen as an awkward or archaic tradition to 21st century Americans, caroling is quite common in Karen culture. I was overwhelmed by how many of our church members showed up that night. It was an exciting opportunity and I had no idea what to expect. We split up into 3 different groups and took the baskets with us. I shoved the lyrics into my pocket and we left.
As we made it to our first home, the family was clearly elated that we came. They welcomed us with open arms and showed the kind of gospel hospitality that you read about in Acts. It was an unfamiliar house with people who don’t speak the same language, yet it was unmistakably a fellowship of believers. In an instant, I felt the vastness of God’s church. This was a picture of God’s mosaic from different tongues, tribes, and cultures who have been called into His kingdom. I immediately felt that God was doing more than just having us drop off bamboo shoots and Aldi gift cards to an international family. He was calling us closer to His person and work.

It was then that my cold, clammy hands opened up that crinkled paper with the lyrics to the aforementioned hymn. Joy to the World. There was so much to be joyous about in that moment! We were able to give freely to our brothers and sisters in need and we were able to embrace gospel hospitality. It was a seamless transition to sing about joy. But as we were singing, I realized something. I was not only singing about joy for the Savior who came as a baby, but joy about his future coming and reign as king. A coming where the whole world would see Jesus for who he is. This song was a call for the nations to be the ones proclaiming His glory.

Joy to the World is a song about missions.

I stood there singing in the family’s house and was overwhelmed by God’s mission. That night, we were living out a very small picture of what was revealed about the second coming of Christ in the book of Revelation. But, he has even bigger plans for His church:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

You see, from the beginning, even after people brought sin into the world, God had a plan to make his lordship known among the nations. To “rule the world” and put His glory on display. Not just one ethnic group, but the nations. He is jealous for the glory of the nations. And in God’s grace and through His Son, He has asked us to be a part of that mission. By our declaration and display of the Gospel, dead hearts will be made alive in Christ and the nations will know Him as King. He could have chosen any way to get glory, but by His grace, this is what He chose. We get to be agents of this “Gospel mission” until earth receives her King.

That December night, we were able to carol to all 8 families and show them the kindness that has been shown to us through the saving work of Jesus Christ. We prayed for each family in our language and proclaimed the joy we have together in Christ. I left that night understanding the Great Commission just a little more, but I couldn’t help thinking that when I don’t participate in God’s mission, I’m the one missing out.

So, Christian, as you consider all the possibilities that 2018 will hold, will you consider how you will engage in God’s mission this year? How will you declare and display the Gospel where you are? How will you engage with the internationals in your community? How will you partner in prayer, finances and encouragement with those declaring the Gospel to nations overseas? How will you be a part of bringing the good news to every tongue, tribe, and nation until that blessed day when we are all crying out about the wonders of His love?

“We should have confidence because we know the mission will not fail. We may fail in our faithfulness, but God will not fail in his mission. Christ will have the nations for his inheritance.” – Andy Johnson

Oh, what a joyous day that will be.

Risa Woods serves as the Coordinator of Community Development at Emmaus Church. She and her husband Jon live in North Kansas City where Risa works as an ESL teacher for Kansas City Public Schools. Risa is also a Celine Dion fanatic and an expert in all things avocado.

If you’d like to learn more about ministry of Refuge KC, go to http://www.refugekc.org, or email Risa at risa@emmauskc.com if you’re interested in partnering with Emmaus to serve refugees.

The Nations Are Here

The Nations Are Here

My daughter and I enter the store and walk the aisles. With our usual grocery list in hand, we peruse the shelves while breathing in the sweet aromas of coriander and curry. Stepping to the beat of bells and drums from a far-away place, we arrive at the counter where a beautiful, brown-eyed woman meets us with a smile. Stumbling over words, we exchange greetings and empty our basket. The clock strikes noon as she rings up our items. From an old speaker, the “Adhan,” (the Muslim call to prayer) rings out loudly; time stops and starts again. I thank her and walk back to my Northeast Kansas City home; myself now in silent prayer to the God whose jealous love for His glory among the peoples burns warmly in my heart.

There are about 1.5 million lost people in the KC metro area, thousands of those people have migrated to Kansas City from across the world. My husband Tyler and I, while attending seminary to pursue international church planting, felt the weight of those numbers more than ever. Last spring, we began praying about how God might use us here in KC to advance His Kingdom and spread His fame. He impressed upon our hearts that if we desired to give ourselves to sharing His Name with people in a faraway place, we best begin here. So this summer, we moved our family from Gladstone to the Northeast to begin the faith journey of building friendships for the sake of the Gospel with the international community around us.

Though we have only been living in our new home for a month, God continuously opens our eyes to the fact that the nations are here. Somali, Sudanese, Burmese, Congolese, Syrian, Ethiopian, Haitians, Mexicans, Vietnamese; all find themselves living here with us — driving the same streets, working the same jobs, attending the same schools. As a family who is a part of the Body of Emmaus, we are seeking to spread His glory among ALL peoples here in Kansas City.

In light of the social and political climate our country finds itself in, it is often easy to forget the spiritual significance of this human reality. It is not by chance, that these families lives have been uprooted and transplanted into our neighborhoods. Nor is it off-handed apathy on the part of our LORD that they have come. The Bible clearly holds out the heart of our Father on this matter.

Calling Abraham to Himself, the LORD declares, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.12:3).

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and makes his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps. 67:1-3)

“Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

“…For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:7b-8)

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt. 24:14)

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nations, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 5:9-10)

The theme of God redeeming a chosen people for Himself gathered from all the peoples of the world can be traced throughout the entire narrative of scripture; beginning with the Fall of Man, carried through to Calvary, and culminating in Revelation with the great multitude of worshippers around the throne of our Lord. While God’s love for the nations is clear, the charge to us is as well. Jesus left his followers with a final command that stands true for us still today.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19)

While the task of reaching the nations for Christ will certainly look different for each individual, participating in it is vital to the Christian walk. As we walk in obedience and bear good fruit in the LORD, our heart to see ALL the peoples praise Him will undoubtedly grow. Whether it means moving to another neighborhood, or packing up and going across an ocean, kneeling with your toddler at breakfast to pray for a people group, getting to know the international family that lives down the street from you, signing up to help volunteer at ESL classes, intentionally shopping at local ethnic stores, switching up which park you play at, or just stepping out and saying hello to someone. We can be sure that no effort is in vain, for our Lord Jesus has won the victory and purchased a people to Himself from every tribe and tongue. As we seek to advance the Gospel among all nations, we can rest confidently in that truth and press forward into knowing Him and making Him known.

Each member of the Body of Christ plays an essential role in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is our prayer that we collectively at Emmaus will continue to forge ahead together in loving pursuit of how we can see the Gospel declared and displayed here in Kansas City and among all peoples. He is worthy!

Tyler and I would love for you to join us in seeing the Gospel go to the nations here in KC, if you want to get in touch with either of us, email us at ian.swadley@gmail.com or karringtonswadley@gmail.com .

If you would like to commit to praying for the nations present in Kansas City, please refer to this link for a prayer guide on how to lift up specific groups of people.


Karrington Swadley has been a member of Emmaus Church since January 2017. She loves being a wife to Tyler and mom to Lily. She has a passion for home making, discipleship and sharing the Gospel with others.

Seeing a Big God through Tiny Eyes

Seeing a Big God through Tiny Eyes

As I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, it caused me to reflect on the glorious grace of God over this past year. My daughter’s life from conception has been one that points me to Jesus and the faithfulness of God in the midst of my anxious heart. Prior to becoming pregnant, a flood of fears consumed my thoughts. I was fearful that I may never have the opportunity to bear a child due to health reasons, and if I did have a child, I was fearful that my health problems would become my child’s or that my body wouldn’t be strong enough for pregnancy. However, the Lord was gracious to me and drew my eyes to Him and prepared my body to carry a child.

The indescribable joy that washed over my soul when I found out I was pregnant was quickly shared with an ever increasing anxiousness. It was as if joy and anxiety resided equally within my heart. Now I was fearful of something happening to my baby, but the Lord was gracious and used pregnancy to help me trust Him moment by moment. Throughout the entire pregnancy I was sick with hyperemesis, but He used it to point me to Him, to remind me of the fall, that this sickness was part of the curse, to point me to the finished work of Christ on the cross, and to point me to the hope of a new body in the new Heavens and new Earth.

The day I had longed for and prepared for finally arrived in a whirlwind. I had read many books, attended many classes and had every little detail planned. However, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)  Nothing went according to my plans but the Lord once again used this to press me more into Him, to remind me of the pain of the curse, creation groaning for new birth, suffering bringing life. My labor and delivery brought me and my unborn child to the brink of death, but the Lord was again gracious to us both. When I heard the words, “Reach down and grab your daughter,” suffering and new life kissed as I pulled her from my body to my chest. This little one was already teaching me about the gospel in that moment. My utter pain and distress met joy unspeakable due to the faithfulness of God.

As I held my daughter I realized that she was relying solely on me for nourishment. How much more should I be solely reliant on the Lord? For 9 long months, my womb nourished her, and now her little mouth was rooting on my chest. Even this natural process has pointed me to the gospel. Giving my body for another. I could never forget to feed my child, so to the Lord will never forget his children. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15) As my daughter has grown, she gets so excited when it is time to nurse; she knows near my heart is safe and that from it she gets life. Oh, how she reminds me that under the Lord’s wings I have refuge, my safe place and that His words are sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)

Everyday my daughter points me to the gospel. With each diaper changed and cry comforted, I am praying it points her to the God of all comfort. She notices every tiny detail and explores the smallest things, and it reminds me that God is sovereign and even in the midst of my fears nothing is unknown to Him.

As I reflect over this past year, I can honestly say that the fears and anxieties that gripped my soul have not lessened, but my view of God has become bigger. I am daily amazed at how my daughter points me to Jesus without being able to say His name.


Elizabeth Sanders is married to Adam and has one daughter, Norah. They moved to KC in 2014 for Adam to attend Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She serves on the worship team and with the refugee ministry at Emmaus. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Cross-Cultural Ministry/TESOL from Oklahoma Baptist University.

Creating Christ Centered Hospitality

Creating Christ Centered Hospitality

I was recently told by a visitor to church that our congregation was friendly.  While I told the guest that I was glad they thought so, I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated.  Now, in all fairness, I am a cynic by nature (pray for me) and it seems like the visitor enjoyed their visit…right?? Not to be groundbreaking, but I couldn’t help but think to myself that being friendly and nice, as a Christian, should not be celebrated as something above and beyond the call of duty.  It should be an expectation, a standard. Of course we are friendly. If you claim to follow Christ and you are not greeting others with a natural kindness, I would challenge you to look to Him and “check yourself.” A Christian who is seeking to follow Jesus will find joy in Him and organically be friendly and open to all.  That should not be a surprise.

Friendliness vs Hospitality

There is a major difference between being friendly and being hospitable. Friendliness is quite passive. It is surface level interactions. Hospitality is founded on being proactive, going out of your way to serve others and to have intentional, meaningful conversations. Paul says in Romans 12:13 to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Don’t wait for your neighbor to reach out and you.  Jesus says in Mark to “…love your neighbor as yourself,” saying it’s the second greatest commandment of all.

Look to the Ultimate Host

It’s easy to use seasons of life as excuses to put off being hospitable. You want to reach out to others, but careers, family, sleep, or yard work (the worst) take precedent. Take a lesson from the ultimate Host.  Christ made an intentional effort to break bread with His disciples knowing that He would die on a cross the very next day.  Let that soak in — He hosted His last meal on this earth and gave some pretty intentional heart-to-hearts. We make the excuse that we have “too much going on” when in reality we are simply exhausted from staying up too late the weekend before, and want one night to catch up on all things Hulu. As Christians, we are called to parallel the love and generosity of Christ. We serve well because Christ has served us well. We love well because Christ loves us well (1 John 4:9-12). This is the cornerstone of hospitality.

While you may not serve on the church’s hospitality team, or you may not think you are gifted with hospitality, or you are the newest hipster trend of being the most introverted extrovert, we are still all called to be gracious, courteous and seeking hosts. You may not be the most outgoing person in the church, but you are at the table. We all are. Christ, the ever seeking and inviting King, has invited us, ALL of us, to sit at His table. Bring your friends. Bring your neighbors. Let the Father use you to serve others well.  Show and share the grace of our Lord as He has shown you.

Practice Hospitality

Be intentional. Ask questions. REAL questions. Get their phone number. Use it. Think of day that week you are free and ask them to come over. Go get coffee with them, go get some shaved ice (#summertrend2017), or break bread in your home.  Find someone else in the church body you think will have similar interests and connect with them. Make a habit to pray for those you meet that week.

Be sacrificial. How do you serve others on Sunday mornings? Throughout the week? Seeking to serve sacrificially can be many things. It’s sacrificing conversing with your community group right when you see them to make sure the guest you just walked by finds the coffee bar (I know you are headed there too), it’s sacrificing sitting with your neighbor or classmate and instead sitting with someone you don’t know and worshipping together. It’s sacrificing meeting your co-worker or family for lunch right after the service, and inviting a visitor to lunch instead, or inviting them along. Jesus served in some of the lowest ways, even stooping to wash His disciples’ feet. Are you willing to sacrifice and make yourself low for the sake of the gospel?

Be mission minded. The church is part of our mission field. Whatever role you are serving in on a Sunday morning should be a reflection of Christ. Whether that job is greeting at the door, cleaning bathrooms, bass playin’, or checking toddlers into the Kids Ministry, you should put your all into serving. Have good attitudes, anticipate needs, walk guests down the hallway to insure they know the way, and be on time. Volunteer for areas of need versus areas of interest without the expectation of recognition. Every way we serve should be intentional, sacrificial, and to the glory of God.

And yes, be friendly.

Try to be more aware of how you utilize your time on Sunday mornings with newcomers. Perhaps you begin by seeking out visitors, having conversations with them and helping them make meaningful connections before you chase down the friend you have been wanting to see all week. Maybe it’s rearranging YOUR schedule to make a visitor feel welcome. By the way, hospitality doesn’t just stop with guests. When is the last time you have had a fellow member in your home that is outside of your small group or neighborhood?

We are called to declare and display the gospel. That includes displaying the gospel in greeting, welcoming and serving guests at church and in our daily lives. We are called to be intentional and hospitable servants that build up the body of Christ. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:9 to “offer hospitality to one another without complaint.” Pray that the Lord will open your heart and eyes for more intentional, sacrificial and missional opportunities with visitors in order to show the love and hospitable heart of Jesus Christ. For this is true hospitality.

Kyler Keith is the Director of Hospitality at Emmaus Church.  He and his wife, Mindy, have two children (Eva & Rhett), and one on the way.  He has not written a paper since college, circa 2007. Rock Chalk!!

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