Fire sparks fear in student
Oct04

Fire sparks fear in student

People perched in the back of pickup trucks and in lawn chairs across a grocery store parking lot just watching, fixated on the dark clouds of smoke rising from the near horizon.  Their town was burning. The fire in Magnolia, Texas, had just been named the number three top priority wildfire in the state and nation on Sept. 12, and it was obvious why. Sophomore Christian studies major Sarah Stadler’s parents were not among the onlookers; they were at their house packing, frantically trying to decide what in their home was important enough to take up space in their loaded car. They were preparing to evacuate. “You never expect a call from your parents where they are asking you what you want from your room or if there is anything that you possibly want to keep,” Stadler said. Fifteen years of memories living in that house flooded her mind. Out of all that, what was worth keeping? She decided the items she wanted most were pictures and a few books she had stored in her room. With her parents evacuated from their home, Stadler was left with questions of what was happening in her hometown. She said, “ It was just really nerve racking and stressful and scary, and I didn’t know what was going to happen because they weren’t there anymore. … I didn’t know if our house was going to burn down or if it was OK. I think it was just the fear of the unknown at that point.” With classes and school activities continuing as normal, Stadler felt her stress level rise dramatically. Focusing on lectures wasn’t easy for her as she wondered how the community she had grown up in was doing. She said, “It was really hard being here because I felt helpless. I felt like there wasn’t anything that I could do because if I went home, there was really nothing I could do there, and if I stayed here, there was really nothing I could do here either.” It was a week of ups and downs. The fire would die down. Then the winds would shift and hurl flames in a new direction, causing chaos and fear for everyone in its path. “There were several close calls. It got really close to my high school and the town. …. A friend of mine that I have known since elementary school, her house actually burned down,” Stadler said. “It’s hard to think that could have been me and my family. That could have been us trying to dig through the rubble and look for things that may have survived.” During the devastation,...

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Hood’s travels garner more than research
Sep20

Hood’s travels garner more than research

Sitting in the middle of the Sinai desert with her husband, two children, a Bedouin driver and an  Egyptian police officer carrying an automatic weapon. That’s where Dr. Renate Hood, associate professor of Christian studies, found herself this summer. After receiving two grants from the university, Hood planned a trip to the Middle East and Oxford to collect raw footage of Biblical sites to use in her classes. “That’s my passion, being a good teacher. And then, of course the research wakes up in me that says what else can we squeeze out?” she said. Hood noticed that interactive material was well received by her students but the length and nature of most biblical themed videos was not exactly what she wanted. “I thought, what if you have short clips that dive to the point. And I’ve seen some examples that you use for church teaching, but it’s very devotional in nature. I wanted just the information part,” she said. “I thought how fantastic would it be … if I could go to the location and get a bunch of clips and bring them back?” The task of getting those clips took her to some interesting places – some visited by thousands of tourists each year and some places almost no one else will ever lay eyes on. Since Hood had both grants, one intended to be beneficial for the classroom and one to be beneficial for the professor’s field of study and research, she was able to also get material having to do with ancient manuscript research. “What I was most excited about was … the Oxyrynchus Library. I was looking at stuff most of the world could just dream of looking into. … It was all there. I was a kid in a candy story,” she said. Though she came back with much information, not all of it can immediately be turned around and put into use. Hood knows that research takes time and the process of doing it correctly requires patience. She said, “I think the thing that’s hardest is patience. I want to develop it all now and then publish it next week. Some of the research needs to come to fruition. You need to think about it. Some of it is truly an investment, and the payoff will come later.” One of the most memorable experiences Hood recalls is their visit to St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai Desert. There she met Father Justin, a Greek Orthodox monk, who is the head librarian. He showed them into the library and his office, pulling out documents that are hardly ever seen up close. “He just...

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Club brings Christ to students in Texas

A party with a purpose. That’s what the organization Young Life offers to high school and college students each week at a meeting they call Club. The goal is to meet people where they are at and show them what it means to really love Christ. Area director for Mid-TX Young Life Paul Walker was working in youth ministry in Wichita Falls, Texas, when he realized that he wanted to work with young people at UMHB. “We’re trying to reach kids who are lost, are not believers, a lot of which have never been to church or don’t go to church on a regular basis. So they’re not in a place where they are ready to be discipled.They still need to hear the gospel,” he said. Walker is passionate about reaching out to those types of students because he was one of them in high school and still remembers the difference that Young Life made for him. He said, “I went to Club, realized a lot of my friends were there, had a lot of fun when I was there and I met my YL leader there. … Then I was involved in Young Life the rest of high school, my sophomore, junior and senior years in high school.” Now the director for the Bell County branch of the organization, he oversees all ministry activities that happen during the year. “Weekly we have campaigners, which is a small group Bible study, and each leader is assigned a grade and a gender. Our Monday Club would be like a mid week youth meeting for a regular church,” Walker said. Young Life only meets during the school year, but they try to stay involved after the semester ends. “We have what we call camp and that’s one week in the summer. We take kids to a camp and what we tell them is going to be the best week of their life. And for many of them, they come back and say it was,” he said. Many of the leaders for the Mid-TX group are UMHB students. They participate in all the weekly activities, as well as do one-on-one contact work, where they invest time into building relationships with their students. Sophomore sport management major Esther Gibbs is a leader for the Young Life college group. Like Walker, she decided to be involved with the organization because of the effect it had on her while she was in high school. “I enjoy being part of it because Young Life has changed my life a lot, and I enjoy giving back what was given to me,” she said. The college group meets...

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9/11: Remembering the tragedy
Sep13

9/11: Remembering the tragedy

Some memories fade almost as quickly as they’re made. Other memories pop back at the simple mention of a place, name, or a date with vivid detail. September 11, 2001, is a date that when spoken, draws millions of Americans back to the exact location they were when they heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For many, it hasn’t faded at all — the emotions, the images of smoke, debris and feelings of grief and loss. Cindy Selman, certification coordinator for the education department, had particular reason to be concerned that day as her son, Adam, was attending school and working in New York City. Selman also knew that Adam often traveled right under the buildings to and from work and school. “I knew that the subway route that he was going to be taking took him directly under the Trade Center, and so when I saw all of that unfolding, I didn’t know where he was,” Selman said. She worked in Sanderford at the time and continued that day with her job while waiting to hear from her son. Selman said, “I remember thinking and immediately starting to pray. I was standing and doing my work, or sitting at my desk, but it was as though I was kneeling. It was deep, deep prayer. And that’s all that I could do at that particular time.” Later, she left campus to find emergency phone numbers for Pratt Design School where Adam was enrolled as a sophomore. While she was away from the office, her son got a call through to her coworkers letting them know he was OK. Selman said, “Immediately, I remember beginning to cry from relief and couldn’t stand. My legs just gave out because of the stress. They sat me in a chair, and they just let me cry.” Adam and some of his classmates went to one of the upper floors of a dorm on campus and watched the buildings burn and eventually fall. “Adam told me that he remembers on that first evening as the sun went down, how absolutely quiet and still that city was, and that city’s never quiet. He said it was unbelievable,” Selman said. September 11, 2001, was a day of many feelings for Selman, knowing her son was safe, but many others were not. She said, “It was a very mixed emotion as far as being so happy that my child was OK and knowing there were parents whose children weren’t coming back.” Even those who didn’t have people they cared about in the area at the time still remember what that day...

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Magnolia wildfires blaze close to home for editor
Sep13

Magnolia wildfires blaze close to home for editor

Wildfires are hard to be around, no matter who you are. It’s especially hard being around fires when you are reporting on them and wondering if a fire is blazing through your family’s home at the same time. My parents are from Magnolia, a small town northwest of Houston that has never really had anything newsworthy come its way, unless of course, you count the Texas Renaissance Festival. That is until a small spark set tens of thousands of acres ablaze. My family evacuated almost as soon as the fires started, as was my grandmother. I couldn’t believe it. Things like this don’t actually happen to you, they are just things you hear about in far away places. In the moments of waiting to hear news from my parents, I was headed to Bastrop with another Bells staff member to cover the massive fire that was tearing through homes and property there. Labor Day was  very long. I was stuck in the tension between trying to be a professional reporter while entertaining thoughts of my family’s situation and what would be lost if the fire reached our house. In Bastrop, we were shut out of almost anything regarding the fire. Officials told us not even the firefighters were getting access to the blaze. Then we found a hill. As we stood at that high point, we saw why no one was allowed access. The whole horizon glowed and pulsed red with plumes of thick smoke rising up to the clouds. This wildfire stuff was serious business. By Tuesday afternoon, I had gotten word that our house was untouched for the time being, but they weren’t sure about my grandmother’s house. The whole week was a roller coaster of emotions, but Wednesday in particular hit hard. I got news that our house was OK, and my parents were allowed back in. The fire had burnt up everything between our house and my grandmother’s, just a few miles apart. With things cooled down on the home front, a few of us reporters headed to Steiner Ranch and Cedar Park to see what was going on there. We were blown away. The fire had been extinguished, and residents had just been let back in. As we stood on the ashy ruins of homes, I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed with thankfulness that my home was OK and heartbroken for those who had lost everything. What had these ashes once been? Though they were just material things, there is a sense of security and refuge in homes, and these were destroyed. My mind constantly wandered to people I knew in Magnolia, hoping those I...

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