As we settle into sweet summertime, we continue our series “Saint Luke Stories” featuring stories of how various members of our community found their way to Saint Luke and why they call it home. Our first story featured Marie & Jennifer. If you have not had a chance to check it out yet, you can read it here.
This week, our story comes from Ian Roth. Ian recently graduated from Eastern University with a Bachelors degree in Middle Level Education. At Saint Luke, he sings in the choir and helps with Spark Student Ministries.
It was a day just like any other day at Eastern University, but for Ian Roth it was the beginning of something special. Every September at Eastern University, there is an “Area Churches Day” offered as a way for students to get to know the churches in the surrounding community. Between classes, homework, athletics, and friendships, Ian made a simple decision that would change not only his life, but would create a ripple effect influencing many others.
As he hurried over to lunch, he choose to stop by the Area Churches Day tent and take a quick glance around. During his time there he picked up a pamphlet about Saint Luke. Due to not having a car on campus, Ian had previously been attending various churches with friends. Limited transportation meant getting to Sunday worship was a challenge for a college freshman. While he enjoyed being able to tag along to church with some of his peers, none of the churches felt quite right for him. Something was missing. Ian explained, “I enjoyed worship at these churches but they were missing the personal relationships, friendships, and family-like atmosphere I desired.” Once Ian got a car on campus, he recalled that pamphlet and decided to give Saint Luke a visit.
Visiting a new church, especially as a college student, can be intimidating. Yet, Ian took the chance and pulled up to Saint Luke one Sunday morning. Although he has been attending Saint Luke for 3 years now, he still describes his first visit with warm memories, vividly recalling details as if he had just experienced the joy yesterday. He shared, “As soon as I came in, I was taken in with open arms. People knew that I was new to Saint Luke. They genuinely wanted to get to know me and have conversation with me.” During the service, a long time member, David York, went up to Ian and personally introduced himself. It was this type of personal touch that has left a lasting impact on Ian. By the end of the morning, Ian had been shown around the church and introduced to multiple people, including the pastors. You cannot help but chuckle as he shares, “By the end of the morning, I had even become a member of the choir!” Ian had found more than he could have imagined. He said, “I felt loved, I felt welcomed, and I felt like I had found a group of people who would support me during my academic and spiritual endeavors at college.” He found what many college student need- a loving church family.
Saint Luke has been that local understanding church family for Ian, always welcoming him home, encouraging him to dream big, and keeping his heart and belly full. Whether he was absent due to busyness with homework, exams, and the demands of college life, or attending every Sunday, Ian has found it refreshing to know that he will always be welcomed with open arms, regardless of how often he can attend worship. He truly believes that “Saint Luke strives to embody Christ’s love in all that they do.” He has experienced that love personally, but the ripple effect has expanded to his other community- Eastern University. One of his favorite Saint Luke memories is the “Kick Off Sunday” celebration that occured his junior year. Ian happily remembers what transpired as all of the festivities were winding down, saying, “The kitchen volunteers insisted that I take food back with me to school. I remember coming back to Eastern and feeding 15 hungry college guys hotdogs and cupcakes during the Eagles Game. They were very appreciative of Saint Luke’s generosity and it was neat to see the joyous impact Saint Like had just by this small gesture.”
To Ian, Saint Luke continues to stand out thanks to it’s genuine love for people, and Ian being a valued part of the Saint Luke family contributes greatly to that mission of love. It is not unlikely to see him laughing with another choir member before worship, chatting warmly with others while partaking in birthday cake in the narthex, or wacky bowling with the preteens from Club56. He, too, is a part of the ripple effect, influencing others with God’s love. Even this very week, Ian, an ambitious graduate student studying Multicultural Education, has pushed pause on his busy life to share his energy, kindness, leadership abilities and of course Christ’s love with a group of Spark Students as they attend the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston. (You can see all of the amazing experiences they are having over on our Facebook!).
When asked what three words best describe Saint Luke, Ian replied, “Welcoming... Personable...Family.” And the best part is, as Ian proclaimed, that it is a family where “all are welcome, no exceptions.” We could not agree more.