by Travis Hamm

Recently my wife, three kids, and I said goodbye to Bola Saliu. We shed some tears as reality set in that this may be the last time we see her. It has been our joy to have this sweet Nigerian girl living in our home for the last two years. She has spent much time with us: eating meals, playing with the kids, doing household chores, watching family movies, discovering that Britney and I still struggle with our sinful flesh, laughing until we cry, crying until we smile, celebrating birthdays, seeing Britney and I discipline the children, waiting for the arrival of our youngest child. Bola has become family.

This day comes as no surprise to us. We’ve known since the first day we met Bola that Kansas City was a temporary season for her. She came pursuing a biology degree at Rockhurst University, the necessary next step in her quest to be a doctor. Such knowledge, though, did not prevent us from welcoming her fully into our lives and hearts and growing as followers of Jesus together.

Britney and I get the joy of discipling young men and women who are amid a preparatory season of life in which some of life’s biggest decisions are made. We’ve been able to journey alongside them during this time, all the while showing them that a full and fulfilled life is one where Jesus is Savior and Lord of everything. We’ve been blessed to see students accept this good news for the first time. And we’ve enjoyed seeing several students, like Bola, continue to mature as Jesus followers. But there is one harsh reality about our ministry calling. The students end up moving on.

This is the bitter-sweet pill of leading a college ministry. The parallels between parenting and discipling students are many. You give time, money, and energy into helping them mature. But the mark of good parenting/discipleship is that those who you invest in will move on to effectively invest in others. There is no doubt that the day you say goodbye is filled with much sadness. But it is also filled with much hope. Hope that they will go on to live joy-filled and fruitful lives. You give your life to these not begrudgingly, but because God has called you to them and you love them.

Thousands of new students have walked onto the two college campuses just a block away from our home, and they have begun this preparatory season. My prayer continues to be that God allows us to journey alongside some of them, all the while sharing the gospel, helping them mature as disciples, and sending them out to become world-changers for the glory of God.