If there is anything I have learned in my time serving on NET, I would say it is the courage to be free!

I came to NET back in 2015. I graduated from Franciscan University with a degree in Philosophy with the hopes of entering seminary right after college. As graduation came closer, I felt this uneasiness about seminary. As I struggled discerning what to do, I remembered six years previously having a conversation with the Vocations Director of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He suggested two things to me. First, he suggested that I go to college at Franciscan University, and second, that I get involved with NET Ministries. I went to Franciscan and loved it, but with NET I said to myself, “There’s no way I would ever go and do something like that!” As God would have it, people kept bringing it up. I eventually applied to NET, was accepted, and six months later was walking nervously up to the front door of the NET Center thinking, “Ah, it’s like Freshman year all over again!” Here I was, in a new place facing the unknown, but with the conviction that God wanted me here for a reason; that He had a purpose.

When you follow Jesus it never ends up as you think it will, IT ALWAYS ENDS UP BETTER!

I was placed on a team with seven other young men and women and assigned to a Catholic High School in Minnesota. I seriously loved it! We got to be a part of the student’s everyday lives. My team and I went to a lot of school events, such as plays, football, basketball, and volleyball games. Our ministry was very relational and we would have one on one talks with students, grab coffee, eat lunch, or simply hangout with them in the hall. I loved doing ministry, especially with the guys! I would lift in the weight room, go on runs or play basketball with them. This helped forge relationships with the students by showing them that you can have a faith in God and still enjoy the good things of life.

I came back for another year as a team supervisor of two teams stationed in Texas. Again, I loved it; getting to care for the NET Missionaries, going on visits to the teams and working with them. I am now going into my third year of NET and will be supervising a school team here in Minnesota.

Looking back on these past two years, there are two ways I have grown which are intertwined in some ways with each other. The first is freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) I came to NET very afraid and self-conscious of what others thought of me. Being on NET, a person has to put aside worrying what others think of them. There were times where I was in a funny skit or had to sing a song that I was embarrassed to do. Through the encouragement of my teammates (who were super supportive of me), I realized that it’s not all about me but about sharing God’s love with others no matter what I am doing.

This, coupled with constant prayer, broke open my heart and gave me a freedom I never knew before.  I experienced so much joy in my heart that I would randomly break out into dancing and singing, much to the amusement of my team and the students. I still struggle on occasion with fear, but there is so much joy and peace now that wasn’t there before NET. I know now in a more profound way that I am God’s son and that I reveal His love in a way that is unique to me.

The second way I have grown is in courage. This is somewhat related to the first, in that I struggled a lot with fear. I was made a Team Leader and needed to make decisions that I often wasn’t comfortable making. I struggled speaking to students that I knew didn’t want to talk with me. I remember all the school lunches sitting with students or at a football game starting a conversation with the person standing next to me. There were times where I had an amazing conversation or experience and others where I was rejected or it was very awkward. Yet through it all, I grew in self-confidence as I pushed forward, regardless of the results. I realized that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in the midst of fear. I have grown in so many other ways and it’s exciting to know that I am not done yet!

I cannot thank God enough for His goodness to me and for allowing me to be a part of this amazing ministry. I never pictured how much these two, going on three, years would change me! One thing I can say is life is an adventure and when you follow Jesus it never ends up as you think it will, IT ALWAYS ENDS UP BETTER! My prayer for you as you read this is that you will allow Jesus to love you just as you are and that you will say yes to Him in whatever He is placing in
your heart.

Steven Thomas
NET Ministries, Mission Staff




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