Hi friends! My name is Laura Bell. Well, my first name is Laura, but some people call me by my first and last name, some people just call me LB… you can call me anything! We digress. I am a senior studying mechanical engineering and math with a minor in Spanish. Full disclosure: I won’t be receiving my diploma till December, may or may not walk in August… again, we digress. BUT I will be back on campus, taking my last few undergraduate courses and a few grad glasses too. SO lucky for you, I’ll still be around campus and I HOPE to stay connected with y’all in a different capacity next year!
I am from Indialantic, Florida and came to SMU knowing basically no-one, and not fully expecting to prioritize my faith. To be honest, I didn’t really think it was a possibility. Especially at a university with the stereotype of a being a party-school, I was doubtful of the community I’d find. In fact, after AARO, I was CERTAIN I would not find like-minded people here. Luckily, I was proved wrong. Within the first few hours of Corral (now Stampede), I met Mollie Mulvey, another Wesley senior, and we started to bond over our shared faith. Honestly, I don’t remember intentionally surrounding myself with people with shared faiths, but before I knew it, I found myself hanging out with people who were pursuing their own relationships with Jesus Christ, and who pushed me to do the same.
Despite knowing so many people who then and now call Wesley home (Alli, Carson, Kayleigh, etc.), I didn’t get plugged in till second semester freshman year. Funny story: I went to ‘The Well’ in October of my freshman year, but that day it coincided with another event at the church, so it was more of an all-church seminar than a college worship service. I thought that was the extent of my time in Wesley. BUT the next semester, Mollie and Alli Barta began taking me to ‘The Well’ and I started to step into the community. Sophomore year was probably my most difficult year. That fall, during a huge transition period in my life, I went on my first retreat. I remember feeling more seen, heard, and loved than in any other community I was a part of on campus. After that, I was hooked. I had ‘drunk the Kool-aid’ so to speak. This lead to four more retreats, two years on leadership team, one HUGE GroupMe, many tears, even more laughs, infinite memories, love, worship, and growth.
There’s a quote I heard once that has changed what I look for in a community. Your people should like you exactly as you are, where you are, but love you too much to let you stay there. Wesley embodies that. I am so grateful for a community who makes me feel loved and valued without letting me settle, get complacent, or stay still. You people have supported me, encouraged me, and made me laugh, but you have also pushed me to ask hard questions and lean into the Lord.
I have learned a lot from my time in Wesley, about myself, the world, and most importantly about our awesome God. I have learned that God is always present and always moving. I have learned that God transforms our hearts when we invite him in (Romans 12:2). I have learned about the gospel and what Jesus did on the cross for us. And I am so grateful to have found a place that opened my eyes to so many truths.
All that said, I hope there’s someone reading this who is encouraged to try out college ministry and to try out Wesley.
To everyone, I have a few tips that I wish I had figured out earlier. First and foremost, learn names and learn stories. There are so many people in this ministry looking to belong and looking to welcome others in. Introduce yourself and really listen to each other. We are called to community and I believe that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is that we get to wait for Jesus to return WITH other people (Hebrews 10:24). Do not be intimidated. Do not be fearful. Ask the hard questions. JOIN A UNITED GROUP. Trust me on this one Practice your own spiritual discipline to place yourself in front of the Lord and allow him to change your heart. Try new things new foods new places with new people. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in WESLEY for four years or four days, you are already in, already loved, and already valued. Be totally and honestly yourself. Ask people who they are, not just what they do. Do not get swept up in status or position. Our worth and value is rooted in our identity as God’s beloved children (1 Corinth. 12:27). Serve each other humbly. Love each other well. Glorify God always.
I have so much to be thankful for. For Andrew and Sarah, and their vision, drive, and passion for this ministry. For Alyssa and Sean and their wisdom. For my United Group and their ability to inspire me each week. For Fitness and Fellowship, half marathon runners, SMU’s unofficial sand volleyball team, and the other countless games played inside and outside the house. For beautiful days to eat lunch on the lawn. For the Wesley Band. For all the late-night chats. For the bountiful snacks at the house… And most of all, for each of you.
As someone who suffers from self-diagnosed reverse commitment issues, moving forward is tough. But I am so thankful to have a place that makes goodbye so hard. Love y’all!